The strength of the dollar has proven to be a roadblock to increasing foreign tourism into the US. And, now more than ever, as immigration and nationalist rhetoric picks up steam worldwide, research indicates that foreign travelers believe Americans are not welcoming to visitors. However, research also indicates that people who have traveled to the USA are pleasantly surprised by how welcoming Americans actually are to visitors. With this insight in mind, we were asked to develop a strategic campaign approach for Brand USA, to show international travelers that America's doors are warmly open to them, and that travelers can get quite a bang for their buck in any US destination.
Although our filming was limited to LA, we cast people from various parts of the country, and filmed them in a place that most looked like their respective hometowns. We supplemented their interviews with actual photography and footage from their hometowns, and the result proved to be a scalable and engaging campaign concept.
In our first season, we filmed in 3 locations per state: a gateway city, a smaller city, and a rural area. Within each of these regions, our goal was to show the wide range of activities travelers could experience, while avoiding any obvious landmarks that would already be known. This was to feel like an insiders' look! We used photography to compliment the interviews, punctuating the recommendations like flashbacks or memories to the places referenced.
In our second season, we filmed the areas most severely impacted by the brutal hurricane season of 2017. This posed a unique challenge to show areas that appeared to have fully recovered, when in fact, the recovery was still underway. While we were met with unique hurdles of verifying the post-hurricane existence of recommended businesses and experiences, frequent power shortages presented unique filming difficulties.
That said, this season was incredibly rewarding because the areas most severely impacted by the storms are also the areas of the US that tend to be most reliant on tourism, and we were honored to be able to support their recovery.
In our third season, we began to shift the narrative model. We became less reliant on photography, and spent more time filming across fewer locations. We also focused not just on getting local recommendations, but by getting a little more of a backstory on our local cast, in order to create a more engaging throughline and a sense of connection with the audience.
We understood that individual voices, each expressing their own unique POV, can collectively sway the perceptions of the USA, inspiring curiosity and a strong sense of FOMO.
Candid sharing of experiences and tips appeals to audiences on an emotional level, beyond the rational. Moreover, a diverse collection of individual voices from genuine locals of varying races, ages, genders, and abilities - not paid actors - lends authenticity and relatability, reinforcing the fact that there are many, constantly-evolving United States, and that the breadth and depth of possibilities for travel in the U.S. is infinite.
In implementation, we spoke with locals not just about what we should do when we visit, and WHY we should do it. From where to stay, to what to do and eat, to the quirkiest things to do, we covered it all! Our interview questions were intended to direct the VO in a welcoming manner of anticipation for a visit, complete with individual perspectives on why certain points were selected. Interviewees responded directly to camera, in first person, to enhance a feeling of conversation. We kept many of the “mistakes” and trip-ups in the interviews as a demonstration of real humanity, making the subjects innately approachable and authentic. Believable.
The entire production was unique to the tourism trade, as there was no pitch, no rehearsed talking points, no industry-insider speak, and no infomercial vibes. Just friends telling friends what they should do when they come visit.
To date, we’ve had the opportunity to support tourism in 37 US communities.
We went beyond creating the film series to bring the content to travelers where they are: on social. Through travel guides on Instagram Stories and in Facebook Canvas units, to cinemagraphs of beautiful destination experiences, photo essays on the Instagram feed, and interactive itineraries on the website, we broke down the content into snackable but useful bites.
The campaign enabled Brand USA to create engaging content from every corner of the country. It also produced some of the most-watched content on their newly launched connected TV app.
Our multi-screen approach grew followers across social channels while driving interest-based audiences onto the website for a richer lean-in experience.
From a content perspective, we validated our hypothesis on tourism marketing: