Broadcasting Awareness from the Mountaintops: Alterra Mountain Co + Sunrise

Overview

Highlighting the unique “personalities” and experiences of the over 40 mountains and ski resorts that are part of Alterra Mountain Co.’s Ikon Pass is a juggle for Gate 7’s representation team. Distilling the power and utility of the Ikon Pass into just four days of breakfast TV broadcast integration is even tougher. But when our team was faced with mounting time pressures from wild weather and COVID-19, they helped create twelve fantastic segments of live television.

Background and Challenge

Alterra Mountain Co. owns and manages a total of 41 mountains ski resorts around the world, and is well-known amongst skiers for its Ikon Pass, a 12-month global ski pass that gives holders access to any of Alterra’s 15 owned mountains, plus an additional 26 associated mountains.

During its second full year of Public Relations representation in the Australian market by Gate 7, Alterra Mountain Co. wanted to expand brand awareness and highlight the power of its Ikon Pass to Australian consumers. With so many mountains available to pass holders—each with its own unique personality and experiences—finding the perfect way to distill the wide scope of the program into a singular message would be pivotal to the success of the campaign.

Gate 7’s PR team knew that a broadcast integration would be the perfect way to take Alterra’s key messages to various target markets within the national audience simultaneously. In particular, the team focussed on live breakfast television because it presented the perfect mix of broad appeal and narrative integration for the type of mass media exposure that Alterra Mountain Co. was seeking.

However, breakfast television presents its own challenges. From the innate risks of live broadcasting, to unique pivots from one day’s production messaging to the next, not to mention further challenges presented by Australia’s 2019/20 bushfire season and the spectre of COVID-19, the upcoming integration’s window for success was narrowing.

Strategy and Solution

By weaving specific marketing messaging into the narrative of the program, Gate 7 would be able to amplify Ikon Pass information to a wide range of viewers, while taking advantage of unique opportunities to bring that message direct from not just one destination, but several, to showcase the depth and breadth of mountains available to pass holders. Channel 7’s Sunrise program, with the largest audience amongst the many breakfast television programs, presented the opportunity to reach the largest audience. Gate 7 had worked with the production team behind Sunrise previously on a number of integrations ranging from single-day trips to week-long road trip specials.

The team immediately got to work booking back-to-back weekend slots on Channel 7’s Weekend Sunrise, where weather presenter James Tobin would broadcast live from Ikon Pass destinations in the U.S., delivering a total of four days’ coverage, capitalising on his love of skiing.

Initial planning for the programming began in March 2019, at a Gate 7-hosted media sales mission for the Alterra-owned and affiliated resorts, when Tobin met with five representatives from Alterra Mountain Co. and its associated destinations. More detailed planning began towards the end of 2019, aiming for a broadcast in January and February, however due to sensitivities around Australia’s tragic bushfire season, this timeline was pushed back to a March broadcast date.

Comprehensive narrative across the 24 weather crosses would focus on Tobin’s “Ikon Pass Journey.” As the crew moved from one mountain to the next, they highlighted the activities and facilities available at each, including family-friendly slopes, après ski spots, and culinary experiences. During these crosses, Tobin interviewed mountain communications representatives and local skiers, highlighting how travellers could integrate snow days into their classic California and U.S. holidays, and detailing a new policy allowing better utilisation of the Pass between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere winter seasons.

 

The crosses included footage from the slopes plus Ikon Pass branded graphics showcasing how consumers could plan the ultimate ski holiday. A follow up integration from Australia’s Thredbo Mountain in the Southern Hemisphere winter months continued to emphasise the global utility of the Pass post-broadcast.

Results and Learnings

On the first weekend, the broadcast integration showed incredible results. With over 1.5 million Australian consumers tuned-in, the first 12 live weather cross segments were worth an estimated AUD$5.5 million in PR value. However, this weekend stood alone, as Channel 7 recalled the on-ground production team before the second broadcast weekend due to progression of the COVID-19 outbreak throughout March. While the Californian destinations completed their broadcast, unfortunately none of Colorado’s locations made it to air.

While this unfortunate turn of events cut the broadcast short, initial results indicated that the second weekend of broadcasts would have received equal viewership numbers, if not more, due to more audiences staying home due to COVID restrictions. And it wasn’t all bad news, as the events solidified our relationship with Alterra Mountain Co. immediately prior to a particularly tough time in the global travel industry.

JNTO “Influences” Recovery

As Japan became one of the most popular travel destinations for Australians, the nation’s tourism board shifted its in-market strategy from brand awareness to tourism dispersal. This shift was accelerated thanks to an integrated Australian marketing campaign following a tragic pair of earthquakes in Kansai and Hokkaido.

Gate 7’s approach to content creation and distributioncombined with an understanding of the client’s guiding principlesdrove an impactful campaign built on visually stunning, cost-effective social media content.

Background and Challenge

Over the past five years, Australian tourism to Japan has exploded, with the destination last year becoming the seventh most popular spot for travellers from Down Under. Given this growth in visitation, Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), the national tourism board, shifted their in-market strategy from promoting broad destination awareness to encouraging dispersal to avoid over-tourism of Tokyo and other main cities which captured the lion’s share of visitors.

This move from destination awareness to dispersal messaging was rapidly accelerated following tragic earthquakes that struck the regions of Kansai and the northern island of Hokkaido. In the aftermath, JNTO released funding to assist the areas with tourism recovery and promotion, and in Australia, these funds were earmarked for content and cooperative marketing campaigns.

Gate 7 had already proven themselves adept partners in conceptualising and executing integrated content and trade campaigns for JNTO through their work on a MasterChef broadcast integration and culinary activation campaign. Following an open tender for the new funds, the team was once again selected to bring a creative content concept to life that would encourage visitation to help restore both recovering regions.

Strategy and Solution

The Gate 7 team already enjoyed strong destination knowledge given their previous work with JNTO and was well versed in the core values that underpin the client’s activities. This included the concept of “wabi-sabi”, the importance of acceptance, and a commitment to the everyday, in Japanese culture. More importantly, they had proven experience in tourism dispersal campaigns including successful campaign deployment for notable clients like Brand USA and Visit California – both mature clients in the market who emphasised “beyond gateway” messaging to Australian and Kiwis.

The two regions highlighted in the campaign were both relatively well-known; Kansai thanks to its major cities of Osaka and Kyoto, and Hokkaido due to very popular ski fields around Niseko. However, JNTO was looking to highlight the regions in a wider scope. Our team capitalised on each region’s unique experiences and character to guide the strategic creation of content for the campaign.

Kansai

Kansai, west of Tokyo, is often seen as a spiritual centre, as well as a hive of traditional Japanese culture, art, and architectureall encapsulated in serene natural surroundings.

Hokkaido

Hokkaido, on the other hand, is the home of outdoor adventure, and the client aimed to showcase the snowy areas without highlighting skiing, due to tourism saturation of the region’s ski fields.

The resulting integrated campaign was comprised of four interlinked programs, each targeting a number of demographics and consumers in various phases of the purchase cycle. The campaign fully leveraged Gate 7’s “create once, publish often” mentality to maximise available budget and ensure all content assets were designed to be re-edited, reused, and repurposed across as many tactical elements as possible, both within the campaign, and in broader work.

Each program drove traffic to a Gate 7-operated microsite with additional information and a content-rich interactive map produced by local agency Alpaca. The map gave geographic context to each piece of content, alongside archived JNTO information and travel tips.

Content Creation

Content creators and social media influencers, Little Grey Box, and Sophie Chan, were engaged to travel the regions while capturing video and still imagery. They were accompanied by a freelance videographer who secured additional content to both supplement capacity and produce cost-effective premium marketing content. Little Grey Box and Sophie produced travel guides and narrative content for their own (and the JNTO-operated Visit Japan AU) channels. These, and six Gate 7-produced pieces – including cut-downs – were repackaged to form the foundation for the other three tactical elements of the campaign.

The Gate 7 team oversaw and organised itinerary development, storyboarding, scriptwriting, briefing, production, key messaging, and post-production for the familiarisation trip while collaborating with JNTO on cultural sensitivities and preferred narrative highlights. The content was designed to be visually appealing and light in a narrative to ensure it could be easily repurposed into other mediums and stories within the campaign.

Cooperative Marketing Campaign

To connect discovery with dispersal by providing viewers with a bookable call-to-action, the Gate 7 team partnered with online retailer, Expedia, and Japan Airlines for a cooperative destination trade campaign. Whenever deals for Japanese destinations were searched, banner advertising and in-line sponsored deals were displayed to consumers. These banner ads and sponsored deals were populated with content produced by the influencers on the content creation trip and were largely built out by the Gate 7 team.

Native Content Partnerships

The influencer trip content also provided the foundation for several pieces of narrative content that were distributed through culinary and culture publication Broadsheet. These first-person cultural narratives focused on Australians (or locals with a connection with Australia) who lived in either Kansai or Hokkaido. Examples included a chef from Hokkaido who worked in Australia for over a decade and an Australian who had moved to Osaka to open a gourmet burger shop in 2016.

Wendy Wu Tours, a local guided tour company specialising in Asian destinations, joined the Broadsheet campaign as an additional trade call-to-action, reducing the campaign costs for each partner, and further integrating travel trade opportunities into the content.  In addition to the trade integration, Wendy Wu Tours and Broadsheet provided prizing for, and ran, a consumer competition with winners heading to Kansai and Hokkaido, to further promote the regions.

Millennials, a key demographic for JNTO, were targeted directly with additional long-form narrative content through the youth-oriented travel publication AWOL. This travel guide content highlighted both regions, and thanks to AWOL’s then-partnership with Qantas, further integrated trade components into the campaign.

Results and Learnings

The entire campaign, which was conceptualised and executed in six months, proved to be quite successful for all parties involved.

The separate but interlinked programs laddered up to an overall incredibly successful campaign promoting the two regions. Each messaging pillar, targeting a different demographic, managed to push the boundaries on the platform or publication that it lived on, and producing one set of cost-effective content for use across the entire campaign created cohesive messaging, and kept campaign budgets to a minimum.

The Expedia and JAL campaign received 558,000 unique visitors monthly, and generated 26.6% YoY growth for the regions, resulting in a 31.5:1 return on advertising spend through the retailer. The Broadsheet and Wendy Wu Tours campaign had over 50,000 page views (making it the to-then biggest content piece for 2019) and received over 12,000 competition entrants, two-thirds of which opted-in for a consumer database. This content passed nearly 2,400 unique viewers onto Wendy Wu Tours’ site, generating over 100 product enquiries.

AWOL’s one content piece generated over 20,000 page views with 3:37 average time on page, and reached nearly 170,000 social media users, with just two posts. In total, across two YouTube videos, 15 Instagram stories, 28 social media posts, and one blog, the content creators reached 74,127 followers through their channels alone. 1,500 unique users also accessed the JNTO-managed content hub, showing the value of contextualising the information.

The results were not only a boon for JNTO and the promoted region; the relationship between Gate 7 and the client was further solidified, which led to additional campaigns and representation as the latter looked to boost Japan’s brand awareness in, and visitation from, New Zealand.

Crisis Communications: The Koala Crusade

When Greater Port Macquarie, on the New South Wales mid-north coast, was thrust into the national and global spotlight due to the tragic bushfires raging through the 2019/20 summer, the local council received a tremendous volume of media enquiries and attention daily.

Gate 7’s PR team was already facilitating the council’s public relations efforts and quickly adapted to assist with this emerging challenge. Immediately, they turned to managing the flow of information and controlling the media narrative. As continued catastrophe (and subsequent generosity) further focused attention on the local Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, the team was asked to expand their efforts and provide a second holistic crisis communications strategy for this important stakeholder and drawcard for the region.

Background and Challenge

Gate 7 had been engaged by Port Macquarie-Hastings Council for public relations services since May 2019 in a general press office capacity, working with journalists, facilitating familiarisation trips, and proactively pitching stories for the region. As the magnitude of the bushfire emergency came into increasingly sharp focus, Gate 7’s role established them as an on-the-ground extension of the council, assisting in crisis communications, media relations, and message strategy.

Strategy and Solution

With activity already heightened, the team needed to quickly roadmap a strategic solution to both control the narrative and position themselves as gatekeepers for the enquires. We drew upon a tranche of experience gained supporting international clients through a range of crisis situations both natural and man-made, including the recent tragic California wildfire seasons.

Our team worked collaboratively with Port Macquarie-Hastings Council to establish a messaging and media strategy, plus identified possible obstacles they would face by monitoring existing coverage and real-time press clippings.

The first objective was to qualify and manage the flow of enquiries for both the council and local stakeholders, and in turn, begin to provide accurate and timely information and control the narrative. The team established a clear framework for directing enquiries and responding with the best information at hand.

Due to the specific interest generated by several viral images and videos of bushfire-stricken koalas, the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital became globally famous overnight and was similarly deluged with media attention. Thanks to our previous working relationship, the Gate 7 team was hired to work directly with the Koala Hospital to introduce a similar media vetting process.

After clearing the initial surge of media enquiries for both the Koala Hospital and the Council, the team began to proactively set the narrative. We set out to leverage strong relationships with key news and lifestyle contacts who could craft and silo stories to targeted audiences, allowing for key messaging to reach the right readers.

Yahoo News Australia reporter and video producer, Michael Dahlstrom, was invited to capture footage and produce stories featuring the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.

While there, he also interviewed local businesses, residents, a koala detection dog trainer, and other stakeholders, to ascertain their situation and how the nation could help. Michael was chosen because of his specialisation in wildlife, environment, and regional Australia.

Equally as important, Yahoo! News Australia provided significantly broad reach plus a wide cross-section of related titles and publications such as Yahoo! Lifestyle Australia, which could repackage Michael’s content into softer lifestyle and travel pieces.

In order to promote positive messages over negative narratives, three main messaging pillars were established and amplified amongst key journalists and media titles.

Bushfire Updates

This practical pillar focussed on the situation on the ground. Immediately useful bushfire updates were prioritised, with recovery messaging, stakeholder updates, and highlights of less impacted areas, which were still open for business, peppered throughout.

Post-Bushfire Recovery Messaging

Once the immediate danger had passed, the focus switched to promoting tourism recovery to stabilise the region’s peak season business and reassure travellers that were hoping to visit in the coming months. This messaging leveraged the media’s interest in the crisis to promote further tourism-focused narratives and encouraged a shift in focus to positive and uplifting lifestyle and travel pieces. These stories ran the gamut from traditional travel stories to lateral angles, like including “Adopt-a-Koala” packages in Christmas gift guides.

Koala Hospital Messaging

Gate 7 structured a fourth messaging pillar around the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, thanks to its unique and significant coverage in national and international media, and our on-going partnership. While working specifically with the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, viral content spurred an enormous influx of donations and support for the conservation group. Gate 7’s team helped foot media enquiries informing the public how they could help, as well as how donations were being utilised following the disaster.

Outcomes and On-Going

The crisis communications program lasted well into 2020, with many long-term recovery elements still on-going as part of a long-term recovery program. By April 2020, approximately 142 pieces of press coverage were initiated by the team, securing a total of 19.1 million impressions.

Additional spikes in coverage have been secured by the team, such as the release of Anwen (the first female joey admitted to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital during the fires) back into her natural habitat, as well as a partnership with Destination NSW that saw the Today Show’s weather team present from the hospital.

While the crisis has passed, our work continues. We’re excited to support the roll-out of the Koala Hospital’s wild breeding program, which was brought forward 10 years ahead of schedule due to the world’s generous donations.

The most significant return from the crisis was the continued deepening of our relationship with Port Macquarie-Hastings Council. We’ve not only achieved exemplary coordination between our teams, but we’ve also taken on tourism development for the region as we assist local operators to distribute their tourism product and capture the attention of possible visitors.

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.

PRINT


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.

DIGITAL

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.

Expanding the Frame: San Diego Tourism Authority, American Airlines and Travelex’s Consumer Content Campaign Campaign

When Travelex approached Gate 7 with a proposed content campaign to promote their Travel Money Card, their immediate need was securing an appropriate destination partner.

But, the team saw more opportunity than just a brand partnership and pitched a comprehensive campaign optimisation that would include the addition of airline partner, American Airlines, the power of two well-known influencers, and a dash of our time-tested “create one, publish often” mentality to drive every bit of value possible from Travelex’s initial scope. The resulting campaign smashed all expectations with an ROI of 517:1 (USD), more than 20,000 unique competition entries, and more than 2.5 million social impressions.

 

Background and Challenge

International foreign exchange company Travelex approached Gate 7 at the beginning of 2019 looking to partner with a destination on a consumer competition and media buy to promote their Travel Money Card. Immediately, San Diego Tourism Authority stood out as the perfect partner as their promotions team were looking to make a splash in-market with a mass paid and earned media campaign, and the city’s very unique visual style made it perfect for drawing eyes in the crowded travel industry marketplace.

Our team wanted to optimise the scope of the project and extend available budget by adding a greater emphasis on social-first imagery and video to create cost-effective, flexible campaign content while maximising consumer engagement. Bringing well-known content creators on board instead of a full-scale production team would provide the kind of authentic voice needed to push the campaign forward, while minimising costs and maximising ROI.

Looking to push the boundaries on the project to maximise the benefits would require working with a further trade partner and finding a way to prove the value of influencer-led content campaigns, both of which would present a variety of challenges as the Gate 7 team balanced each stakeholder’s objectives.

Strategy and Solution

Our team already knew that American Airlines had been seeking out opportunities to promote their trans-Pacific business-class product, and by bringing the airline into the campaign, they would be securing logistical assistance, valuable channels to further reach, and a major prize for the consumer competition. Strategically, it was a great opportunity to further share costs and increase distribution across a third major brand, but more importantly, adding the value of additional premium prizes would be beneficial for each brand in attracting consumers.

In order to effectively optimise an already well-planned campaign brief, the team took a deep dive into each individual piece of content to ensure every component fully reflected the objectives and messaging of each brand stakeholder. Travelex, who were very well versed in effective and targeted mass-media buying, had yet to work closely on a socially-driven, influencer-led content campaign. Gate 7 knew the power of authentic local voices for helping to drive desirability behind product and destinations, and were best positioned to blend the strengths of known content creators with Travelex’s media buying experience.

Content creators Matt and Phoebe, of Little Grey Box, who Gate 7 had previously collaborated with, were flown to San Diego to produce a raft of scalable and flexible visual video and social content that demonstrated the breadth and depth of partner prizes that the lucky winners of the competition would experience. This content could be edited for use throughout the campaign period by each of the partners in every space; digital, in-store and out-of-home. Matt and Phoebe’s content was used in social media packages, and also turned into evergreen travel guides by Travelex and Little Grey Box, a review of the business class experience on American Airlines and the customer experience with Travelex, and a variety of other pieces to be used throughout the campaign.

For two weeks, this content was displayed across a huge network of physical and digital media locations in Travelex’s network, as well as shared organically across San Diego Tourism Authority’s, Travelex’s, American Airlines’ and Little Grey Box’s social media, eDM and blog channels. At POS, in-store and digital screens at over 180 locations across Australia and New Zealand to social and digital ad buys, the content distribution aimed to capture the viewership of a huge audience. Travellers in Australia’s largest airports were presented with branded messaging on almost every screen through the terminals, with Travelex’s targeted media buy complimented perfectly by jointly created competition content.

Over a concurrent six weeks, consumers were encouraged to enter into a competition to win a trip for four to San Diego. Any customer, from both Australia and New Zealand, who purchased more than AU$200 worth of foreign currency would be eligible to enter the competition, and this competition ran for a complete six-week campaign.

Results and Learnings

Thanks to cost-sharing across the three partnership brands, and very low spend, the resulting ROI of the program for Visit San Diego was in excess of 517:1 on every dollar spent, and final media value delivery was nearly $30,000 above the forecast levels. This huge ROI shows the importance of finding the perfect brand with which to partner on aligned goals, especially in times where marketing budgets have been thinned.

The program’s massive audience reach came from the 27 pieces of content shared across all four stakeholders’ owned channels and was instrumental in proving the value of a well-planned and executed content campaign. Over 20,462 consumers entered the competition across Australia and New Zealand, resulting in exceptional engagement from customers and easily achieving Travelex’s desired campaign objectives. Digital ads reached 2,642,326 impressions, and in-store promotions were seen by an estimated 864,000 customers across the entirety of the campaign.

500 Voices Tell the Greater Port Macquarie Story

In order to shake off a sleepy coastal town perception and promote the diversity of quality destination experiences on offer in the region, Port Macquarie-Hastings Council tasked Gate 7 with elevating their existing PR strategy to further drive awareness and make already good PR outcomes even better.

Gate 7 exceeded every goal by combining traditional and digital media, influencer marketing, and leveraging the region’s already solid relationships with their community of local operators and stakeholders to produce 210 pieces of content, worth more than 4 million dollars in estimated media value.

More than 500 local operators were engaged to create a one-year PR strategy that generated $4 million in estimated PR value

Background and challenges:

It was important for the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council to highlight and celebrate their local community. After all, who better to tell the region’s stories than those who know it best? But, with limited resources, Council was concerned about the time and manpower required to deepen engagement with more than 500 local restaurateurs, business owners, artisans, and hoteliers.

Gate 7 began by creating a comprehensive communications plan and a feedback loop that ensured local stakeholders were actively featured and consistently engaged in the region’s PR strategy. Through various initiatives, Gate 7 took engagement with the Council’s established community of stakeholders to the next level, as well as coordinating media trips, broadcasts, and pitches to ensure broad distribution of their unique stories.

Strategy and solutions:

Creating open communication channels for stakeholders
In order to maximise communication with stakeholders, a monthly newsletter was launched. Besides acting as a summary of coverage and PR activity, the newsletter also included a ‘Pitching Callout’ section, giving local businesses the opportunity to actively participate by submitting ideas and stories. This two-way communication was crucial in fostering stronger relationships and provided stakeholders even more involvement in shaping the region’s PR strategy—while also celebrating their part in its success.

Integrating content creation and influencer marketing
Gate 7 invited Remy Brand, a talented photographer and social media influencer, to visit the region and capture local businesses in action. As an avid surfer who frequented GPM to catch waves, Remy understood the uniqueness of the region and the people who called it home. Through a @PortMacquarie Instagram takeover and corresponding campaign through his owned channels, Remy shined a light on the region’s many attractions and innovative businesses to his audience of 39,000 highly engaged followers. Remy’s photo and video assets were subsequently leveraged across multiple channels, including local businesses’ channels, the region’s new ‘Eat See Do’ guide, and for media requests.

Connecting locals with media through themed famils and broadcasts
Strategically targeted journalists from leading Australian publications were invited to experience GPM through the lens of its local chefs and artists a ‘Meet the Makers’ themed famil. Gate 7 also created bespoke broadcast schedules for Channel 7’s Sunrise and Channel 9’s TODAY Show to highlight different areas, attractions, and businesses in the region, whilst ensuring locals had were placed front and centre as spokespeople to share their stories with the media.

Results & Learnings

It takes a village to raise a destination’s profile, and Greater Port Macquarie’s locals came through. Within the first year of working together, more than 210 pieces of content showcasing the unique stories, people and places that comprise Greater Port Macquarie were produced. Among these, nearly half came directly from input provided by the local community. These stories generated more than 41 million impressions and have helped to reposition the destination as a region filled with a buzzing dining scene, a diversity of attractions and activities, and a home to welcoming locals who love their city as much as they love sharing its stories.

More importantly, the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council has done something that many local councils often dream of. They have established thriving and powerful relationships with their local community by making them an integral part of their overall destination marketing strategy. The monthly newsletter continues to attract new subscribers while maintaining a +50% open rate (according to Campaign Monitor, the average eDM open rate is 15 – 25%) and local operators regularly engage with suggestions in response to the ‘PR Pitching Callouts’.

A USA Day the Kiwi Way

Gate 7 and Air New Zealand collaborated on a training event strategy to provide widespread knowledge of the USA to New Zealand’s travel agent community, a major deliverable for the client, Brand USA.

The result was an immersive and engaging training day like no other, reaching more than 10% of all New Zealand agents and securing 97% positive feedback from attendees.

Approximately 10% of the New Zealand travel agent community was engaged during this training event.

Background and Challenge

Air New Zealand recognised that many local retail agents were selling hard product, such as business class, the 787 Dreamliner, and the Skycouch™, that they themselves had never experienced. The airline wanted to expand agents’ product knowledge through an engaging training day but knew that a destination sponsor would provide an extra drawcard for attendance while fleshing out the content of the training program.

While the airline holds a significant market share of airlift capacity between the United States and New Zealand, historically their trade training for the U.S. had focused mainly on the gateway cities into which they fly. This paved the way for a partnership with Brand USA which was already running annual Travel Trade Expos each February, and still on the hunt for more face-to-face training opportunities with New Zealand Travel Trade.

This combination created a clear opportunity for the two organisations to partner on a day-long co-operative training and B2B marketing event that would help expand agents’ knowledge of the United States while giving Air New Zealand facetime to demo their hard product.

Strategy and Solution

Brand USA was a perfect fit with Air New Zealand, as there was clear alignment between the brands, and U.S.-wide training was attractive to agents. Individual U.S. DMOs had previously conducted training sessions with Air New Zealand, but based on Brand USA’s nation-wide scope and overall authority, the number and breadth of DMOs interested in participating expanded. Agents who had previously attended the Brand USA Travel Trade Expos had a positive perception of the DMO’s engaging and informative trainings, creating an additional drawcard to attendance and setting expectations for the structure and substance of the event.

Air New Zealand promoted the training event to agents through their travel trade media connections and their agent portals, designing and distributing the creative for the event. The registration platform was open to all agents in New Zealand, with Air New Zealand selecting the final list.

After flying the selected agents in from across the country to their events facility at Auckland Airport (Auckland-based agents were given free parking to ensure no agent was out-of-pocket), Brand USA made a presentation to the attendees to inform the day’s events. These included B2B sessions for DMOs and product managers to sit down with retailers and wholesalers, a hanger tour of aircraft flying the NZ-USA routes, and 10-15-minute training sessions conducted by DMOs and travel organisations. A standout component for agents was the Auckland Airport familiarisation tour, where agents followed a customer’s journey from check-in to boarding while experiencing the hard products of the facility.

Prizing for agents was also included, with small, immediate giveaways of experiences in the on-site Boeing 777 flight simulator, as well as one grand prize of a trip to the U.S., including on-ground costs. American-themed food and beverages were served, and the centre was decorated to reflect the United States, yet another layer of authenticity and appeal for attendees.

Results and Learnings

298 agents, around 10% of the roughly 3,000 total kiwi agent population, registered to attend the event, with 115 agents selected for the day. Representing the entirety of the country, 60 agents attended from Auckland, 20 from Wellington and the Central North Island, and 30 from the South Island.

Qualitative feedback from agents applauded both Air New Zealand and their U.S. partners for the attention to detail and the level of engagement involved in the event. 97% of feedback rated the event’s informational sessions “above-average” or better, and specific feedback highlighted the partnership between Air New Zealand and Brand USA.

Air New Zealand also noted the event’s success, and how integral these training sessions are for them to maintain their strong relationship with the trade. The dense concentration of airlift in the market makes an open and created a win-win-win for Brand USA, Air New Zealand, and the travel trade, and Brand USA is looking to expand this type of training beyond the Australia/New Zealand market.

The event is already earmarked to run next year, with only minor adjustments, including incentive-based selection processes for the agents, and streamlining the logistics. Based on the success of this execution, the event has already been earmarked to run again with an expanded line-up of DMOs and other travel organizations lined up to present their information to attendees. Of course, small changes like investigating incentive-based selection criteria and streamlined logistics will help to perfect what was already an almost perfect execution.

If You Streamline It, They Will Come – Brand USA’s New Zealand Expos

When Gate 7 took over management of Brand USA’s New Zealand Travel Trade expos, they wanted to find new ways to increase attendance, maximise engagement, and boost travel agents’ destination knowledge of the United States.

By removing key barriers to attendance and gamifying prizing mechanics, the team received nearly universal praise for the events, with 95% of attendees rating the experience “very good” or ”excellent.” The engaging content and entertaining schedule helped agents retain destination information, with 98% stating they were more confident selling the USA following the event.

Background and Challenge

For nearly four decades, U.S. travel and tourism operators and DMOs have run annual exhibitions to travel agents in New Zealand, showcasing new products, destination updates, and providing key information to help retailers make the sale. Since 2016, the organisation of these expos has been run by Gate 7’s Brand USA team.

Each February, two events (one in Auckland, and another alternating each year between Wellington and Christchurch) combine an expo-style forum for interaction with a sit-down meal complete with prizes and presentations from key suppliers.

Working within the constraints of the organisation’s model, the events have to be strictly cost-neutral, creating a logistical and creative challenge each year as the team strives to continually increase attendance, maximise engagement and provide added value to attending travel trade and exhibiting suppliers.

Strategy and Solution

Long-haul holidays to the US are often longer and more complex with travellers making stops in several states. Because of this, agents selling the USA must have a deep and broad understanding of all the different opportunities and locations available. The Brand USA Travel Trade Expos address this challenge by bringing agents – new and experienced – up-to-date with the vast offerings of the entirety of the United States. Due to the U.S. booking cycle in-market, the February expos correlate with New Zealand’s peak booking period for flights into the U.S., making the expos quite valuable for Kiwi agents selling the USA.

Filtering agents through each of the often 40-strong supplier contingents presents some logistical challenges in the allotted time, so Gate 7 looked at ways to deeply engage agents with a smaller sub-section of exhibitors while allowing time for specific enquiries to be answered throughout the event. Knowing that the expansive prize pool is a huge drawcard for agent attendance at the expo, Gate 7 gamified the prize draw to require engagement with suppliers through exhibitor-specific answers on attendee crossword puzzles distributed at the beginning of the event.

Suppliers loved the gamified crossword puzzle prizing mechanic because it provided structure to the conversations they have with agent attendees while highlighting key information that needed to be shared. As the event has grown, we’ve seen that more engaged and interested suppliers have in-turn driven significantly more engaged attendees.

Of course, all the other expected trimmings of a fantastic event, such as celebrity MCs, substantial food and beverage, and a central venue location each contribute to outstanding attendance each year. The recent addition of free transportation for local agents to the venue helped remove possible barriers of attending like finding and paying for parking.

Results and Learnings

The Brand USA New Zealand Expos are some of the most anticipated events on the travel trade calendar. With over 350 agents attending annually in Auckland, and over 100 agents in Christchurch and Wellington, 95% of attendees rate their experience at the events as “very good” or ”excellent,” and the events sell out within days of registration opening. The expos are more than just engaging and entertaining time for attendees though. Agents note the wealth of information they gained through the expo, with 98% saying they feel more confident in selling the USA, and 70% more likely to recommend specific cities or states.

There has been a 54% growth in attendance since 2017, and, thanks to the support of long-term supplier relationships, steady development in the number and breadth of suppliers. The New Zealand market is proving more and more attractive to USA destinations and travel products, which makes the expos increasingly important for agents to stay abreast of information and developments. For instance, in 2012, with only two airlines flying between New Zealand and the U.S., only Air New Zealand attended the expos. By 2020, six airlines were servicing routes between New Zealand and the United States, and each was represented during the events.

Port Macquarie Embraces Travel Trade Distribution

Port Macquarie-Hastings Council wanted to help their local tourism operators reach new consumer segments, increase visitation, and kick-start their businesses following a difficult 12 months for the region. As just one element of a broader, holistic strategy, Gate 7 developed a cooperative marketing campaign with online retailer Luxury Escapes targeting their extensive database of high-value customers with a tactical package deal supported by inspiring destination content and PR. The campaign proved to be a huge boost for Port Macquarie’s tourism sector, with nearly 1,000 packages sold by the featured local operator, and almost 5,000 travellers booking to visit the destination.

Background and challenge

Port Macquarie, on the New South Wales mid-North Coast, has traditionally been a seasonal, family friendly, tourist destination with large portions of business from repeat travellers each summer. Following its globally publicised battle with bushfires over the 2019/20 summer season, the destination was again put under strain by the impact of Coronavirus restrictions, devastating many tourism operators’ bottom lines and spurring the region’s council into action.

Neither the destination nor its local operators had much experience working with Australian travel trade to attract domestic travellers, much like many regional Australian destinations. Many operators lacked a full understanding of the trade landscape and didn’t know how to identify or leverage travel trade opportunities and relationships. Looking to expand the region’s appeal beyond historic market segments, Port Macquarie-Hastings Council engaged Gate 7 to craft an integrated marketing strategy to establish a stronger relationship with the travel trade, educate local stakeholders, and create new avenues of opportunity to increase visitation to the region.

Strategy and solution

Gate 7 presented a holistic series of programs to Port Macquarie-Hastings Council to help their stakeholders leverage Gate 7’s relationships with key Australian travel trade to begin forging their own connections. This broad strategy started with product distribution analysis programs as well as a webinar to educate local operators on the logistics and benefits of working with the travel trade.

To prove the power of trade partnerships and distribution, Gate 7 proposed a range of retailers for a cooperative marketing campaign, ultimately crafting and executing a comprehensive, co-operative marketing strategy with online retailer Luxury Escapes. Reaching a high-value target segment of Australian luxury travellers, Luxury Escapes maintains an extensive, and highly engaged database of consumers, making them the perfect partner for Port Macquarie’s pilot travel trade co-op campaign.

The benefits of the partnership between Port Macquarie and Luxury Escapes extended beyond the reach of their database, however. Gate 7 was aware of the significant portion of Luxury Escapes members who retained sizeable travel credits with the retailer, thanks to trips that were postponed or cancelled earlier in the year, and due to Luxury Escapes’ partnership with the Qantas Frequent Flyer loyalty program. The brand allows bookings direct from the consumer as well as through the travel trade, offering critical flexibility in an environment where rigidity has become a barrier for travellers.

The featured package included a 3-, 5-, or 7-night stay at the Mantra the Observatory, a tour of regional wineries, and a day of strawberry picking at a local farm. The package was launched alongside a raft of bespoke evergreen inspirational content on the Luxury Escapes e-newsletter, digital magazine, and social channels, including a Port Macquarie takeover of the Luxury Escapes Instagram account. This content campaign was heavily promoted for the first week of the month-long campaign, with continued promotion of the tactical deal continuing throughout. Thanks to Gate 7’s on-going PR work with Port Macquarie-Hastings Council, the full integration of the content, messaging and trade elements was a natural and extremely powerful mix.

Results and learnings

Anecdotally, the campaign was said to have performed “exceptionally well” for a domestic client, and the success has spurred Port Macquarie-Hastings Council to further invest in trade development.

During the one-month campaign, Luxury Escapes sold 995 packages, consisting of 3,177 room nights and 4,873 pax. This constituted considerable revenue for the Mantra, achieving a huge ROI for the Port Macquarie stakeholders involved. The content campaign also made a significant impact, reaching over 500,000 engaged users across 33 social media posts.

Gate 7 has also committed to directly supporting operators, as well as the Council. More operator education webinars around packaging accommodation and attractions have been conducted, and operators are seeing new opportunities arise thanks to their new-found relationship with the travel trade.

Future cooperative marketing campaigns are being planned, leveraging different trade partners and operators to target a broader segment of Australian travellers. Beyond cooperative marketing, Gate 7 is working on launching more trade-focused campaigns, such as “Facebook Live” agent destination training, more in-depth product distribution analysis and development, and even a possible launch into the New Zealand travel trade market as borders reopen.

Regional Tourism Operators – Do you need help maximising travel trade distribution for your destination? Start with our Distribution Analysis and Packaging Fundamentals program. A simple, two-step process analyses your current distribution through 24 well-known travel brands with recommendations for further expansion. We also help you empower your local community of operators with an educational webinar and tools to help them engage travel trade.

A Product for Every Season – North Lake Tahoe

When Gate 7 first began working with North Lake Tahoe, they were a small voice in the long-haul market competing with bigger outdoor snow adventure destinations like Japan and Canada because Australians didn’t know the breadth of opportunity in North Lake Tahoe, or California in general.

In order to generate awareness and put North Lake Tahoe on the map for Australians, Gate 7 undertook a deep analytic dive into their product distribution with an eye toward expansion. This would ultimately become the first step in a multi-year product distribution initiative that would see the destination not only band together with other regional operators to put a new collective (California Snow) in front of travel trade, it would see the destination grow from a snow and ski specialist to a year-round destination boasting an astounding 620% growth in product listings and a 99.5% increase of in-destination spending from the Australian market over four years.

North Lake Tahoe was able to create a 620% increase in product distributed through Australian travel trade

Background and challenge

California’s Lake Tahoe, the U.S.’s largest alpine lake, is known today as a year-round outdoor adventure Mecca, with extensive snow fields during the winter, and boating and hiking in summer. However, when they first started working with Gate 7, they were less known amongst Aussie travellers and very little travel product was contracted for sale through mainstream Australian travel trade. The destination needed a stronger voice in the long-haul travel market to capture the many Australians choosing alternative destinations for outdoor adventure and snow holidays.

Because Australian travellers often book their longer, more complex U.S. itineraries through travel agents, this became a self-fulfilling prophecy, as limited sellable product hampered Australians’ awareness and visitation, hampering interest in developing products for the market. To increase market share for North Lake Tahoe, Gate 7 would need to work with both the DMO and its local operators to raise their profiles in the market and help them establish themselves as a worthwhile alternative to big-name ski destinations.

Strategy and solution

In order to establish North Lake Tahoe’s position in the Australian long-haul market, Gate 7 championed the creation of a collective including two additional Californian ski areas, South Lake Tahoe, and Mammoth Mountain, marketed together as California Snow. This collaborative voice was better positioned to leverage relationships with specialist ski and snow wholesalers to develop and contract their products while claiming market share from other ski-based destinations like Canada, Japan, and Utah.

Australians tend to use travel agents to plan their trips due to both length and complexity. But, because there was a general lack of awareness of North Lake Tahoe amongst travel trade, their product wasn’t being put forward to clients further compounding the lack of awareness in-market. Of course, not every product is a perfect match for the Aussie audience who, for example, prefer accommodation on mountains and in ski fields and have traditionally resisted having to drive from accommodation to ski fields each day. These kinds of strategic market insights from Gate 7 helped North Lake Tahoe streamline and target which tourism products would be best suited to package and distribute to Australian travellers.

Like many regional destinations, North Lake Tahoe’s operators were unfamiliar with where to begin and lacked the data to see the value of attracting Australian travellers. Operator education was largely managed in-destination by the DMO; however, this process was led by the strategy and information provided by Gate 7, especially regarding market-specific length-of-stay and spend data. This process helped operators understand the need to work closely with U.S. receptives; companies that work with Australian wholesalers to streamline product contracting and the booking process end-to-end for agents.

Following the success of targeting ski and snow specialists in the first year, Gate 7 adjusted its iterative strategy over the following three years, targeting more mainstream high-volume wholesalers and retailers for product development and distribution as destination awareness for North Lake Tahoe continued to improve. Contracting operators through Viva Holidays, Flight Centre and Qantas Holidays encouraged distribution to broad audiences, with secondary efforts moving into smaller, niche distribution channels targeting specific travel segments. The move from ski and snow specialist to mainstream wholesalers also complemented the DMO’s strategic decision to shift the perception of North Lake Tahoe to a year-round destination by building on the success of their initial strategy.

Results and learnings

North Lake Tahoe’s commitment to distribution and product listing growth was immensely successful and cemented Australia as a key international market for the destination.

What began as an exercise in education soon became a self-fulfilling cycle of continual improvement with ongoing refinement and re-targeting of their distribution strategy driving continued growth and product development year after year.

As operators in the destination started to contract with Australian wholesalers, awareness, visitation and spend increased in-destination, encouraging other operators to do the same, driving a similarly exponential growth cycle. Over four years, North Lake Tahoe’s tourism product in the Australian market grew by an enormous 620%, from just 24 distributed products to 149 in FY19/20. (An average of nearly 90% year-on-year growth each of the four years.)

VisaView data indicated a 99.5% increase in visitor spending from 2016 to 2018, and simultaneously, Google search data regarding “Lake Tahoe” in Australia increased nearly 17% from 2016 to 2019 as compared to the previous period.

Do you need help maximising distribution and sales through Australian travel trade? Start with our Distribution Analysis and Product Packaging program, a simple service that identifies opportunities to expand your product distribution through 24 travel industry brands along with an educational webinar and practical cheat sheet to empower your local tourism operators to increase theirs.

Brand USA’s ‘One-Badge Wonder’ Agent Incentive

When Brand USA’s plans to encourage travel agent engagement with their online USA Discovery Program training platform came up against a global pandemic, they needed to quickly rethink the traditional model of engagement and incentivisation.

By building the program around multiple small, immediate, and utilitarian prizes—and keeping costs low through the creation and management of closed agent groups on Facebook—Gate 7 helped to establish the One Badge Wonder incentive as one of Brand USA’s most successful training campaigns with just three days of lead time.

Background & Challenge

Brand USA, the nation’s official destination marketing organisation, operates a travel agent training platform, the USA Discovery Program, designed to provide a range of tools to help agents sell the entirety of the U.S. Unfortunately, scheduled plans to push a comprehensive agent engagement campaign designed to encourage completion of Discovery Program “badges” were derailed with the advent of a global pandemic that saw many travel agents furloughed in lockdown.

With the clock ticking before other DMOs capitalised on the downtime, Gate 7 was challenged to create an immediate incentive structure that encouraged agent participation with the USA Discovery Program which provided valuable information and inspired destination knowledge of the U.S.

Strategy & Solution

Australia & New Zealand combined is one of the top 15 international markets for visitation into the USA, likely due to the fact that travellers from these markets tend to stay longer and spend more proportionally than many other markets. Because the average Australian/Kiwi’s holidays last an average of 18-days covering at least two states, the complexity of these itineraries often requires booking through an agent who is well-informed about the USA as a whole. The USA Discovery Program (AU or NZ) offers the necessary information and tools these agents would need, however encouraging them to repeatedly engage with the program to complete new modules remains one of the main challenges faced by Brand USA globally.

Previous pushes targeting AU/NZ agents have often been centred on high-value travel prizes, prioritising rapid badge completion to earn entries into competitions. However, with international travel on the backburner, a new model was needed to incentivise agents for the One-Badge Wonder program.

Given that most travel industry professionals were facing little-to-no income for the foreseeable future, Gate 7 used eight weekly $450 supermarket vouchers, which could be used to purchase necessities and alleviate financial stresses due to lockdown, as an alternative to the “grand prize” model. This not only reduced prizing costs for Brand USA, it represented a significantly more valuable incentive for agents in the short-term. Every completed specialist badge would count as one entry into that week’s draw, allowing agents to choose whether to complete their badges in one fell swoop, increasing their odds in any week, or space them out for multiple chances to win.

To keep costs low, promotion for the competition was largely run through new agent Facebook groups, created by Gate 7 solely for travel trade. (Australian Facebook group / New Zealand Facebook group) These groups (reaching over 900 agents across both countries) promoted the competition and allowed winners to showcase their prizes while continually driving conversations about selling the U.S. In addition to free promotion on travel consortia’s internet platforms, the incentive program was amplified using paid editorial in travel trade publication KARRYON in Australia & Tabs on Travel in New Zealand, leveraging their strong standing within the industry.

Results & Learnings

Despite taking the campaign from ideation to execution in under three days and operating on a budget of less than $15,000 (the majority of which was for prizing), the results proved to be extremely successful.

With nearly 1,000 agents across Australia and New Zealand completing almost 4,200 badges over the course of eight weeks, the One Badge Wonder incentive became the second most successful Brand USA Discovery Program incentive—albeit at a fraction of the cost and time investment of the #1 top-performing initiative.

While the prize structure was intended to encourage repeated engagement from entrants, the levels of engagement far exceeded expectations. Agents from Australia & New Zealand completed an average of 4.3 specialist badges each, and spread their completion across multiple weeks to maximise their chances of winning. This prolonged learning experience with regular reinforcement is crucial for agents looking to successfully sell the kinds of complex U.S. itineraries that are often booked by Australian and New Zealand travellers.

Brand USA’s global headquarters was so impressed with the incentive, it has asked other markets to look at implementing similar strategies for their furloughed agents. Among these are similar agent-focused social media groups which will likely prove to be priceless as a direct communication channel with agents and due to the information and feedback that can be gleaned directly from the trade community.

Hayden Quinn & Dan Churchill’s Foodie Road Trip

To reframe California’s culinary experiences with a millennial audience, Gate 7 partnered with Qantas to send two Australian celebrity chefs and social media influencers, Dan Churchill and Hayden Quinn, to three northern California destinations.

Integrating unique and visually stunning culinary experiences into a “foodie adventure” road trip, the campaign produced six social videos distributed across Visit California and Qantas’ channels (social, website, and email). The campaign, with the help of a tactical fare from Qantas and a targeted social media ad buy, generated more than 1.6 million impressions and increased searches for flights on two new Qantas routes to San Francisco by 25%.

Background & Challenge
California is well-known as a home of abundant and unique dining experiences through its incredible cultural melting pot of cuisines. Visit California highlights the state’s culinary prowess in its global marketing campaigns, however, the state’s foodie scene hadn’t resonated with millennial consumers in the Australian/New Zealand markets. Aiming to turn this around, the state’s DMO tasked Gate 7 with creating a shareable solution that elevated culinary experiences within the overall road trip-themed messaging of the destination to drive sales and push boundaries in the way that only Gate 7 can.

Strategy & Solution
While Australian millennial travellers regularly ranked culinary experiences as a key trip motivator, they had not been receptive to California’s messaging as a culinary destination, pointing to a sizeable opportunity for California to simply reposition its messaging for these markets. Young Australians, as some of the most technologically savvy travellers, love to share unique, eye-popping content across their social media channels and engage heavily with snackable (pun-intended) videos. It became clear that repositioning should be through this lens; presenting the state’s bold, colourful, mouth-watering dishes in easily shareable video bites.

Gate 7 quickly identified Qantas as the perfect airline partner for distribution and campaign integration noting their newly debuted Melbourne to San Francisco route and then-recently announced Brisbane to San Francisco route. These new gateway connections into northern California provided a significant opportunity as Qantas was keen to promote the region to Australian travellers.

Qantas serendipitously also maintains a stable of social media influencers and content creators labelled the ‘Q-Collective’. Leveraging this collective was an obvious avenue to create the desired social campaign featuring celebrity chefs, Hayden Quinn and Dan Churchill, with distribution through both Visit California and Qantas’ distribution channels.

The outcome was a series of 60-second road trip videos infused with Quinn and Churchill’s infectious cheeriness—an easy reflection of the Golden State itself. Clips highlighted San Francisco’s famous culinary neighbourhoods, Santa Cruz’s historic surf culture, adventures in the state’s Redwood forests, and the unique culinary experiences found in Sacramento.

Gate 7’s “create once, publish often” mantra ensured that all content produced could be easily repurposed for other projects to maximise cost-effectiveness. These videos were published on both Visit California and Qantas’ social media channels, with paid ad spend targeting millennial travellers. The videos were also integrated into eDM deployments, blog posts and landing pages hosted by Visit California and Qantas, the former providing more contextual information and maps from the destination, while the latter offered a tactical fare to fully integrate the airline as a trade partner to this content campaign.

Learnings & Results
The campaign generated significant social engagement with Qantas, recording over 1.6 million impressions with nearly half a million of those views reaching a 75% completion rate. Visit California saw over 70,000 organic views and a total reach of over 118,000 for the video series.

Search traffic for Qantas’ routes to San Francisco airport increased a massive 25%, a huge boon for the new 787-flying MEL-SFO route. Similarly, during and immediately following the campaign period, Visit California noted an 8% increase in website traffic to pages related to culinary experiences, while San Francisco-related page traffic more than doubled.

Social sentiment also shifted following the campaign, with culinary-themed posts performing better, and receiving more positive comments. This reflected both a change in the markets’ perception of the destination through a simple change in the style and format of content produced, localised, and shared by Gate 7.

Witchery + Excite Holidays + Santa Monica

Gate 7 facilitated a meeting of the minds in a brand partnership with Witchery aimed to attract a highly relevant target market, share key messages, and highlight the depth and diversity of Santa Monica, California. Beyond delivering a stunning photoshoot from the destination, Gate 7 also negotiated a destination guide which encouraged Witchery customers to dream of their perfect Santa Monica holiday further driving brand awareness. A number of travel trade and airline partners such as Virgin Australia and Excite Holidays were engaged by Gate 7 to close the loop by creating lucrative CTAs which drove a 95% increase in year-on-year revenue.

Background & Challenge

Famed for its beach-front beauty, arts and culinary scenes, walkability and close access to many of Southern California’s many attractions and icons, especially LAX, Santa Monica Travel and Tourism wanted to use the city’s stylish and aspirational positioning to expand awareness and desire within the Australian market and turn that awareness into bookings for the destination.

While traditional media and travel trade campaigns might achieve these goals, the tourism board wanted to make a splash by partnering with a brand that spoke to their own values, had a sizeable distribution network for newly created content, and reached a highly relevant audience for Santa Monica.

Strategy & Solution

Aligning with Santa Monica’s USP as a centre of fashion and visual art, a fashion brand was the obvious choice for a partnership. After assessing a number of large-scale brands, Gate 7 partnered with Witchery, a leading women’s clothing brand with over 180 retail stores across Australia and New Zealand and a website reaching over 23,000 unique daily viewers. Additionally, their social media and EDM database extended their reach to a further 1.5 million customers, allowing a massive exposure to a highly relevant consumer segment.

To support the new partnership, Witchery created an exclusive set of make-up products and shot all promotional imagery for their Santa Monica-inspired range at a beach house in-destination. Following this, the imagery was also used in a collection of POS, e-newsletter, social media and website content highlighting Santa Monica, as well as for a destination guide within Witchery’s online magazine, The Witchery Report. Finally, to drive email sign-ups for Santa Monica’s database, Witchery ran a consumer competition for a five-night Santa Monica itinerary.

To connect inspiration with sales conversion, Gate 7 engaged travel trade and airline partners: Virgin Australia, Excite Holidays, and Flight Centre. Virgin Australia provided bookable fare call-to-action to LAX and promoted a number of Santa Monica properties to their customers. Excite Holidays and Flight Centre used Witchery vouchers to drive competitions for travel agents and consumers respectively through the campaign period, further driving sales and destination awareness. This full integration of trade elements within the brand partnership was the critical fulcrum between a general awareness campaign and achieving sales objectives with provable ROI; a frequent challenge for DMOs.

Learnings & Results

On a total budget of $30,000, the campaign proved to be one of Santa Monica Travel and Tourism’s most successful. Australian travel to the destination increased massively, with room nights increasing over 50% for Excite Holidays bookings, and a whopping 1000% for Virgin Australia Holidays, leading to a YoY increase in revenue of 95% on the destination for Excite Holidays alone. Additionally, with over 7,500 new database sign-ups and nearly 22,000 competition entrants, the content distribution and brand awareness objectives were easily achieved. Google search trends related to the destination rose 38% YoY following the campaign period

Witchery also saw a sizeable outcome thanks to the drawcard of the destination, with over 480,000 unique browsers accessing content throughout the campaign period. Aside from returning huge revenue on investment, the campaign was also massively successful within the industry, earning the U.S. Travel Association’s “2016 Educational Seminar for Tourism Organisations Destiny Award.”

Los Cabos Virtual Roadshow

With Los Cabos Tourism’s planned bi-annual sales roadshow forced to suspend just weeks before launch, the destination was gutted. But disappointment gave way to inspiration as Gate 7 identified an opportunity to create a virtual roadshow program, bringing a fresh format direct to agents’ homes. Capitalising on current and emerging travel trends, our strong relationships with the travel trade, and an evergreen and engaging content program complete with guided home cooking and mixology sessions featuring Mexican classics, we served up a cost-effective three-day program reaching both broad and hyper-targeted luxury and Virtuoso segments of our travel agent database.

Many destination marketers rely on in-person roadshows to provide updates to travel trade and media about their destinations and products, both to build and maintain in-market relationships and create memorable experiences that position their destinations front-of-mind for agents.

Los Cabos (often called “Cabo”), the iconic Mexican destination at the tip of the Baja California peninsula, has a wide range of properties, from Virtuoso-certified resorts to all-inclusive budget options, suited to all types of traveller. Los Cabos Tourism Board wanted the region’s diversity of accommodation and dining options to be the centre of the roadshow experience, asking Gate 7 to incorporate as many hotel partners as possible. Roadshow sessions would give Los Cabos Tourism Board and its hotel partners much wanted face-to-face contact with agents, generate new leads, and expand their database of travel trade contacts, all with Mexican-themed fun and interactivity. As the COVID-19 outbreak shuttered borders, in-person events were suspended, but Los Cabos was still looking to entertain and educate agents as best they could, forcing the Gate 7 team to rethink their “roadshow recipe” from the ground up.

Australia represents Los Cabos’ third-largest visitor segment, and through Gate 7, the tourism board has built strong relationships with many of the country’s key trade contacts. Given Australia’s strong recovery, it remains a critical, high-value market for Los Cabos’ own long-term economic recovery, and moving forward with a sales mission was imperative.

Strategy & Solution

The Gate 7 team always creates presentations in which participants feel empowered to ask questions, engage with the host, and take away key learnings. For the Los Cabos roadshow, the result was a collection of four targeted, one-hour, semi-live presentations featuring guided cooking classes of local dishes, easy-to-follow margarita mixology lessons, and engaging Q&A sessions with hotel representatives to provide a “live event” feeling despite time zone differences.

To reach the right target audiences with the correct content, and to allow access for our client’s hotel partners to a suitable set of agents, four different sessions across three days were planned. One would be an overview of Los Cabos’ general accommodation, another would showcase luxury options, and the final two would be aimed at high-end Virtuoso properties and agents.

Gate 7 utilised its highly segmented travel trade database and partnered with trade publication KARRYON to attract and engage with a variety of possible roadshow attendees and niche retailers (such as wedding and diving trip specialists). To encourage sign-ups and attendance for the mission, and to collect valuable insights about agent specialisations for further segmentation down the road, two properties and two non-accommodation partners produced videos highlighting Los Cabos’ diversity that were included in KARRYON pre-event editorial, highlighting the virtual roadshow and an associated competition to encourage agent attendance.

Leveraging the growing trend of culinary experiences as a travel motivation, and the reality of more at-home cooking, the Gate 7 team settled on building the presentations around cooking and cocktail classes featuring chefs and mixologists from restaurants and bars in Los Cabos hotels and resorts. These recipes ranged from a simple Aguachile and classic cocktails to more involved dishes like charred adobo fish with risotto and an avocado-infused margarita (which is significantly more delicious than you might first imagine).

Due to the time difference, having hosts present live from the destination was going to be difficult, so each hotel partner was encouraged to record their own video content, which was then edited into hour-long presentations for agents alongside an overall destination update from the Los Cabos Tourism Board’s Managing Director, Rodrigo Esponda. These presentations were broadcast with live questions answered by the Gate 7 destination representative and were additionally filmed and packaged to be distributed to attendees and registered users who could not make the sessions. In total, 21 different hotel partners were showcased throughout the sessions, each offering a look at their property’s unique selling points, with many offering a tour of the amenities through their Q&A answers. (See an example of content submitted by Hotel Montage Los Cabos below.)

To keep costs down for the client, all the video editing, communication with the attendees, and hosting of the presentations were handled in-house. From the drawing board to execution, the week-long roadshow took only took a month, thanks to our agile team working in close collaboration with the client.

Learnings & Results

Our personalised and targeted approach generated a number of relevant, high-quality leads for Los Cabos and its hotel partners; matching properties with appropriate sellers more efficiently than any traditional in-person event could. Capitalising on the reduction of industry events also meant that more high-profile contacts from target travel trade organisations were in attendance for the sessions.

The desire to reach niche retailers also paid dividends for both Los Cabos and the Australian travel trade, as an increased desire for travel to Mexico intersects with more passion-based trip motivators. Dive travel retailers, for instance, are noting increased interest in Los Cabos’ reserved marine sanctuaries from their clients.

Perhaps the greatest opportunity stemming from the event was how Los Cabos can continue to keep agents engaging with their destination. The vast majority of content produced for the roadshow will be used in on-going destination representation training and has been recorded and housed on YouTube for further distribution. (We’ve embedded one of the presentations below.)

Additionally, we have packaged key hotel partner information into one-sheeters to send to agents for their customers, and all of the content created will continue inspiring travel for agents through the Gate 7 Resource Centre.

 

Lifetime of Holidays: Brand USA Product Development

In the decade leading up to 2017, the annual number of Australians and Kiwis visiting the United States more than doubled, reaching close to 5% of the population. Amazing right? But with such high penetration of the market achieved, how could we avoid the increasing potential for future trips to be delayed or redirected due to a “been there, done that” mentality? The answer: Diversification. We needed to transform the perception of the US as “The Holiday of a Lifetime” to one that would recognise the USA as offering a “Lifetime of Holidays”.

Families engage with Visit California's Kidifornia activation, hosted by Gate 7

Creating commercial outcomes by colouring outside the lines

California is still considered a global trendsetter in popular culture, innovation, environmentalism, and politics. It is the birthplace of American cinema, hippie counterculture, fast food, and the personal computer.

Now home to thumping population of 39 million people, it’s also an uber-sized American economy filled with innumerable brands and businesses that have something fabulous to sell to tourists from all over the world. There are a vast number of reasons adults choose to visit the Golden State but what about kids? How can California have the same impact on the children?

To answer this question, Gate 7 teamed up with Air New Zealand to discover a family-first approach to increasing visitation to California from the Australian and New Zealand markets. Through an interactive installation called Kidifornia, Gate 7 not only achieved the deliverables of this Visit California campaign but created an iconic and unforgettable experience for children and their families.

To carry out Visit California’s Kidifornia campaign, Gate 7 conceptualised a street-based activation in the form of a giant digital colouring wall, using a huge depth of content to showcase California to children. From crossing the Golden Gate Bridge to getting up close and personal with the giraffes of the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park, children could select the images that most appealed to them and learn more about the experience, before seeing their name burst to life on the giant screen in front of them.

Kicking off with a preview to 33 media in November 2017, Gate 7 rolled out Sydney, Melbourne & Brisbane iterations of their colouring Kidifornia installation to reach over 4000 users. Kidifornia was not only an ad campaign, installation and microsite, it was a fun idea that consumers could easily connect with.

With Los Angeles and San Francisco being such important gateway cities for Air New Zealand, they immediately saw a fantastic opportunity to showcase their family product, the Skycouch. At every activation, Air New Zealand set up a small station, showing off their Skycouch flat family seat and played 15- and 30-second ads approximately every 10 minutes on the activation screens. Follow-up emails that the users received post-engagement contained a call-to-action for Air New Zealand flights to California – prompting people to make it real and dream big for their next family holiday.

Due to the success of the Kidifornia campaign in 2018, Gate 7 extended the campaign into 2019 using activations at both the Werribee & Melbourne zoos in Victoria and taking it back up to Garden City Westfield in Brisbane.

Aside from street-style activation inviting children to colour in their digital collage, Gate 7 also rolled out a digital and social campaign that has already touched more than 13 million users and engaged at least 3,000 unique users on the site.

The impact on sales for Air New Zealand was almost immediate. Following a range of digital calls-to-action on follow up EDM’s and banner ads on the local Visit California site, Air NZ saw an uptick in their Cali bookings with a year-on-year increase of +5% in January and +31% in February 2019 The partnership was successful in making a genuine connection between kids and families.

If you are interested in a Gate 7 partnership, please explore the different clients we represent.

Hungry Eyes, Happy Travellers

If Instagram’s Explore tab has proven anything, it’s that beautifully presented food is a surefire hit for any publisher and is consistently amongst the high-performing content on social media, across all demographics.

Food is an integral part of all media; it’s both a universal need, common to everyone, and a luxury item, where one single ingredient, process or associated personality can set a meal apart.

In days gone by, print media discussions of food were often centred around high-end restaurant reviews almost exclusively covering more gourmet and expensive establishments, and hardly ever venturing to eateries more accessible to the average diner. When food blogs and social media pages launched, they exploded in popularity as audiences got a look into their local culinary scene directly from their phones and laptops.

Australian and New Zealand television cooking content was quickly elevated from midday, low-production-value programming to prime time ratings-busters.

Masterchef Australia, the most popular TV program in the genre, has at various times been the most-watched show by Australian audiences, and even in it’s 10th season in 2018 was drawing in huge ratings and significant media coverage.

Concurrently, travel content has become equally intertwined with food and culinary experiences. Booking.com found that 64% of travellers were choosing destinations due to, or or in large-part thanks to, culinary choices. Culinary content is now as much a part of travel media as sweeping vistas and iconic attractions, and equally able to elicit a strong emotional response from audiences.

When selling travel to Australian and New Zealand audiences, it only makes sense then, to leverage the audience’s passion for culinary programming to showcase a destination’s rich and unique culinary offerings.

Gate 7 has worked in close partnership with both Qantas and Masterchef Australia production company Endemol Shine, to showcase the culinary offerings of clients California and Japan through extensive broadcast integrations. With a production crew in excess of 65 people, five trucks worth of cargo, and an intense productions and logistics schedule, the challenges were many, but the results undeniable.

The key objective is of course to ensure that the combination of unique culinary experiences and iconic backdrops draw viewers in to want to travel, highlighting the intrinsic attractions of the destination and their culinary culture and bounty.

In 2016, Masterchef’s California Week showcased many destinations across the Golden State, painting a picture of California as a foodie’s heaven.

We worked hand in hand with five destinations across California, identifying and leveraging each of their culinary gems. San Diego, being so close to the Mexican border and having a large portion of Latino residents was highlighted through Mexi-Cali cuisine, while Napa Valley’s strong fine dining and wine traditions shone through, and Santa Monica’s food truck scene was the focus of a challenge for the contestants. San Francisco represented the farm-to-fork movement that California spawned, and Los Angeles let the audiences and contestants meet with Australian chef Curtis Stone in his restaurant Maude in Beverly Hills.

These emotive visuals, designed to get mouths salivating, were supplemented with iconic images from across some of California’s most well-known locations, from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Santa Monica Pier.

The following year Gate 7 followed suit with a week long showcase of culinary Japan on Masterchef Australia. The production saw contestants cook off in a sweeping tea plantation in front of panoramic Mt Fuji, in a bustling, pantry sized street stall in Tokyo and at picture perfect Tateyama Castle with stunning views over Tateyama Bay. Contestants got a master class in making soba noodles and a host of magnificent Japanese vistas were backdrops to many scenes essentially showcasing Japan’s deep culture of respect for food and its presentation, a key driver of travel to the destination.

Activity surrounding these broadcast integrations is of coursed all integrated to leverage the broadcast investment as much as possible, with all channels from social to trade activations focussed on culinary messaging. Holistically this works to enhance the destinations reputuation and allure as a culinary hotspot, while also ensuring the availability and promotion of culinary focussed travel packages.

As inspiration behind travel transitions from the traditional ‘where to go’ mentality to ‘what to do’, travellers start to seek out specifics, like where and what to eat. This trend stretches well beyond the culinary space, with adventurers searching for tips on everything from art to music, film, and hikes. Prime-time broadcast opportunities that speak directly to these growing experience hungry audiences present a ready-made vehicle to intertwine destination messaging into broadcast narratives, and reach a mass audience to turn hungry eyes into happy travellers.