NZME + House of Travel + Brand USA
For nearly a decade, Gate 7’s Brand USA team has collaborated with New Zealand’s premier media house, New Zealand Media & Entertainment (NZME), on a massive, annual brand campaign in-market each year. With each new campaign, the two teams face a creative and logistical challenge as they look to optimise and build on previous iterations, all while managing a significant number of stakeholders who have bought in.
For the 2020 campaign, the simple but striking theme of “Go Beyond” drove a message of dispersal while NZME’s perfectly targeted media placements, plus a well-executed trade integration, returned strong results despite significant hurdles.
Background and challenge
Every February, Brand USA collaborates with New Zealand media house NZME on a mass media campaign to expand awareness and visitation from New Zealand. A centrepiece of their Kiwi market strategy, the annual campaigns continue to grow in scale and diversity, pushing boundaries with new themes and innovative executions. NZME characterises the campaigns as the largest of any outbound tourism destination in the country noting, “you’d have to be living under a rock to miss the USA in February.”
The challenge is to successfully integrate and build upon previous campaign successes while finding new ways to excite consumers and drive destination awareness. Each campaign also integrates a travel trade partner – most recently House of Travel – to provide tactical fares, so the campaigns must be constantly optimised to not only drive inspiration and awareness but provide a clear conversion opportunity for the industry partner.
You’d have to be living under a rock to miss the USA in February.
As well as managing campaign execution, Brand USA invites a number of smaller regional DMOs from around the United States to participate. Multiple organisations buy into the Brand USA campaign, and managing expectations, competing priorities, and information flow within these groups requires significant stakeholder management. A clear vision of the overall campaign objectives and effectively communicating compromising between stakeholders is critical in plotting a pathway to success.
Strategy and Solution
For the 2020 campaign, Brand USA approached NZME looking to push a message of dispersal and exploration. With three new direct flights from New Zealand to the USA launching in 2020, it was the perfect opportunity to encourage Kiwis to discover previously unvisited states or simply explore unknown neighbourhoods in their favourite cities. The simple, but bold theme of “Go Beyond” perfectly summarised the core message and campaign execution style envisioned by the team.
Go Beyond featured across a range of publications and platforms while leveraging a simple but striking concept to immediately transport consumers to destinations across the U.S. Featured destinations were decided through a careful selection process aligned to content needs, in-market demand, audience familiarity, and availability of House of Travel product. DMOs bought into the campaign to promote their destinations and product while amplifying their content. In all, over twenty states, cities, and regions across the USA were highlighted in the campaign.
The campaign utilised traditional media outlets, disruptive digital placements, and for the first time ever, on-site activations at House of Travel retail stores. This cross-channel approach was made more efficient because of NZME’s massive stable of brands, including national newspaper the New Zealand Herald, many regional newspapers, the youth-oriented music radio station ZM, and a breadth of related digital brands.
Full- and double-page spreads featuring visuals of iconic destinations appeared across a number of NZME titles and were supplemented with 31 editorial stories. Reach was further magnified by House of Travel, who utilised the stories as sponsored editorial content in non-NZME-owned regional titles.
The print content (which in the case of the New Zealand Herald appeared in the lift-out travel magazine), targeted high-earners and older demographics, often colloquially referred to as “SKIs” (“spending kids’ inheritance”). Calls-to-action for House of Travel’s tactical fares were often featured immediate adjacent to the content, in the form of half-page verticals that directly complemented the editorial content.
RADIO + ACTIVATION
Young professionals, families, and millennial consumers were largely targeted through radio, with a significant portion of spend going to advertising and content on ZM, one of New Zealand’s largest commercial pop music stations. The station’s drive-time hosts, Bree and Clint, who themselves are social media influencers, spearheaded much of this content, as well as offering listeners the chance to win a trip to the U.S.
One of the most innovative elements of the campaign were the 38 hot dog pop-ups operated by ZM’s activations team, who brought the USA to life for listeners, offering the in-person competition entry mechanism. Setting up at key House of Travel stores around the country, the team made and gave away hundreds of U.S. city-inspired hot dogs to visitors, driving significant foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores, capitalising on local House of Travel owner operator’s efforts to promote the tactical offers and expand their client databases.
Both the print and radio campaigns were integrated into a comprehensive digital campaign that used eye-catching visuals and impactful placements to draw attention to House of Travel’s tactical deals and inspirational content. This streamlined pathway from inspiration to planning and booking was based on insights from previous NZME campaigns.
The continued success of the campaigns stems from the collaborative relationship between Gate 7 and NZME, which allows for ongoing innovation, optimisation, and creativity. The NZME team has an all-hands-on-deck approach to Brand USA’s work, and beyond facilitating open and honest feedback, the relationship has fostered incredible efficiencies allowing almost 10 months’ work to be executed smoothly and successfully.
Results and learnings
During the first two weeks of the five-week campaign, House of Travel recorded double-digit growth of passenger numbers on the previous year’s in-campaign results, which also enjoyed double-digit year-on-year growth. By a run of sheer bad luck, the Go Beyond campaign launched immediately prior to, and during the spread of COVID-19. In the campaign’s third week, the World Health Organisation declared pandemic status, however, the campaign still managed to average 18% growth in passenger numbers through this three-week period, proving the strength of the concept, and successful execution by the team.
In terms of awareness, the campaign pointed a considerable number of eyeballs to House of Travel, generating over 22.2 million impressions, 123,763 campaign page sessions from NZME content, and 10,000 campaign page sessions from House of Travel’s social media and EDM activity. There were 6,381 total entries generated for the consumer competition of which 2,313 were unique after de-duplication by House of Travel. This represents a 402% year-on-year increase over the previous year’s campaign.
Both Gate 7, and NZME recognise the campaign’s bold simplicity as the key to the success despite the unanticipated obstacle of COVID. The overarching theme and framework provided a strong foundation to facilitate destination buy-in, while new elements delivered in droves. These strategies are already earmarked to be optimised and continued in future campaigns, as both Brand USA and NZME continue creating new and improved ways to reach consumers in the evolving media and travel landscape.