Using people power to save a country Matt Springate & George BryantAPG AWARDS 2011 The Brooklyn Brothers
SUMMARYOn a seemingly ordinary weekday evening back in April 2010, the Eyjafjallajökulll volcano unexpectedly erupted.Black ash clouds spread across the skies of Europe and world air travel came to a standstill.Tourism numbers to Iceland plummeted ahead of the all important summer season. If left unchecked,this would mean another disaster for the already embattled country.This paper is about how planning began the ﬁght back by creating a new type of tourism campaign that usedpeople power rather than a traditional communications approach to rapidly change the perceptions of touristsglobally and increase tourism to the small country by 27% in just 6 months, worth over £138.7 million to theIcelandic economy.
THE SCALE OF TASKTAKING ON A VOLCANOThe country of Iceland had transformed itself from one of Europe’s poorestcountries to one of its wealthiest in the space of a generation. But fast-forwardto September 2008 and the country emerged as the biggest casualty of theglobal ﬁnancial crisis and its future looked bleak.Then, on the 14th April 2010, another killer blow was dealt to the country’speople and its economy. The dormant volcanic glacier, Eyjafjallajökulll,unexpectedly erupted and sent plumes of ash into the Icelandic air. Black ashclouds engulfed the skies and world air travel was thrown into turmoil.A CYCLE OF NEGATIVITYAs the cloud spread, so did the negative publicity and Iceland was on the vergeof a very real disaster. Stories from trusted global news sources like the BBCspread online and National Geographic issued a health warning, promptingpeople to think that Iceland was a dangerous place to visit. A climate of negativestories and sentiment around Iceland was increasingly turning potential touristsoff and creating a cycle of negativity around the under siege country.
THE BRIEFSAVE A COUNTRYThe effect of the volcano was felt immediately with tourism numbers plummeting 30% in the two remainingweeks of April, a decline that continued on into the start of May. The Icelandic Government had to re-set theirforecasts for the year based on a 22% decline in visitor numbers from May-September (the busiest monthsof the year, accounting for 55% of all tourists).TURN THE TIDEDue to the scale, and urgent nature of the challenge it was critical to have an immediate response.Thousands of jobs and livelihoods were under threat. The Government of Iceland partnered withthe City of Reykjavik, Icelandair, Iceland Express, Promote Iceland and another 80 tourism companiesbanded together and approached us to rebuild and drive a rapid and sustained increase in bookingsacross the leading 15 markets including UK, US, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and France. After thebrieﬁng, three things became very clear. If we were going to help Iceland ﬁght back we had to:1.) Be smart with the money: £2 million is a small budget for a multi-market campaign.2.) Change behaviour not just attitudes: It wasn’t going to be enough to change people’s perceptions; we had to inspire them to act and book trips to Iceland.3.) Act quickly: We didn’t have the luxury of time to create a ‘slow-burn’ campaign.
RETHINKING THE BRIEFIf we were going to rapidly reverse the decline of tourism numbers we neededa radical approach.When we looked at traditional travel communications for inspiration, we wereuninspired.The convention for travel advertising is to create a glossy, broadcast campaignoften featuring celebrities or iconic places. Post the volcano, we knew thisapproach wouldn’t work; it would be too slow burn and not tackle people’sperceptions head-on. Also, in our post recession world, where mistrust ininstitutions is at an all time high who would believe a traditional tourismcampaign from an embattled country’s government? A conventional broadcast-led tourist campaign was at risk of feeling like propaganda. The conventions of travel communications
FROM ACQUISITION TO PARTICIPATIONBut then while looking at the market data, we discovered a fact: 80% of people whohave visited Iceland share their stories and recommend it to friends andcolleagues 1 . And It was this insight – that people are inspired by a visit to Icelandand come back with stories they want to tell – that led us to rethink the brief.Rather than try and acquire tourists (the well-worn approach of traditional travelcampaigns), why not get these fans of Iceland to tell our story? We could use thesefans as our media and create a campaign aimed at getting people to share theirstories. This approach had a dual benefit; firstly, we could use these people as ourmedia to help spread the positive message that Iceland was open for business,and secondly, stories from real people would be more credible than a governmentcampaign broadcast through traditional media.1 Source: OMD Quantitative Study, 2006
PEOPLE AS MEDIAReframing the brief from the acquisition of tourists to inspiring fan participationunlocked a new model for the category. Our next challenge was to think abouthow to engage fans of Iceland and get them to share their stories with the world.We had to think of a smart way to recruit them and build momentum behindthe idea so we started to explore recent thinking around movements andsocial participation.We found that a key principle of social media thinking suggests that movementsare created by a small number of inﬂuencers. However, we simply didn’t havethe time to recruit inﬂuencers and get them to spread the message. We neededa faster approach that would get a mass of people involved quickly.So instead of starting with a strategy of inﬂuence, we started with the opposite, andwe built a strategy around unity.We knew that if this idea was going to change people’s behaviour and gettourists visiting the country again we had to re-think social participationand give thousands of people (not just the few) a voice and unite a mass ofpeople behind a common purpose. Flipping the traditional travel comms model
THE IDEAINSPIRED BY ICELAND‘Inspired by Iceland’ was the idea we created to harness the power of people as media.Rather than target tourists, we wanted to stimulate Icelanders to share their inspiring stories with the world.We wanted to turn the cycle of negativity on its head and use Iceland’s greatest resource (its people) to createa virtual social movement of our own. Our idea was to get Icelanders to kick-start the campaign and inspireIcelandic fans from other countries to tell their stories to the world. The shift from a cycle of negativity to a new model of social participation
INSPIRED BY ICELANDHOW WE STARTED A MOVEMENTIn a world ﬁrst on the 3rd June 2010 we launched the ‘Inspied by Iceland’ campaign by stopping the entirecountry for an hour and getting Icelanders to go online to share their stories with the world.‘Iceland Hour’ was launched by the President of Iceland in a live address on TV and simulcast online to theworld. During the hour we gave the people of Iceland social tools to spread their ‘Inspired Stories’ withtheir network of friends, family and colleagues overseas.Schools stopped. Businesses stopped. And by the end of the ﬁrst day 1.5 million stories had been sharedwith the world.
INSPIRED BY ICELANDFANNING THE FLAMESWe used social media to create an army of fans that spread news and positive messages across Facebook, Twitterand Vimeo. Friends of Iceland (including Bjork and Yoko Ono) were ﬁlmed and their stories postedon the ‘Inspired by Iceland’ website.We set up live webcams across the country – everywhere from the volcano to the Blue Lagoon – where peoplecould see that the country wasn’t covered in ash. During the ﬁrst month of the campaign the cameras wereviewed on average 4233 times per second. And between June and August they were viewed 60 million2 times.In cities across the world we created innovative ‘real-time posters’ with feeds from the webcams, which gaveover 60 million commuters3 a pleasant antidote to their daily grind and provided further evidence that Icelandwas open for business.2 Source: Kakl Analytics, June – August 20103 Source: OMD, Quantitative Study, June - September 2010
ICELAND HOUR The President of Iceland launching ‘Iceland Hour’ PR coverage from ‘Iceland Hour’
‘INSPIRED BY ICELAND’ WEBSITE The home of ‘Inspired by Iceland’ ‘Inspired by Iceland’ website where people can share their personal stories
RESULTSTo be honest, even we were amazed at the response.Over the period of the campaign, we had 22.5 million stories created by fansof Iceland across the world4.Beyond the stories, we saw a massive shift in perceptions towards thecountry, tracking showed that in the UK people were 39% more positivetowards Iceland, whilst the Germans were 33% and the Danish 23% morelikely to travel to Iceland in the future5 and positive online sentiment towardsIceland grew to 89%6.In the 6 months from the start of the campaign tourist numbers were up 27%above forecast, adding a vital £138.7m to the Icelandic economy, on a spendof just over £2m.And ‘inspired by Iceland’ has sustained momentum beyond the end of theactive campaign period as Q1 2011 has proven to be Iceland’s highest ﬁrstquarter ever.4 Source: Agency Analytics and Measurement, May – September 20105 Source: Market and Media Research Ltd. Quantitative: Online Omnibus – August 20106 Source: Brandwatch, based on analysis of 100 random posts May to September 2010
LESSONS FROM STARTING A MOVEMENTBE PEOPLE POWERED‘Inspired by Iceland’ proves that a people powered strategy can create an unfair advantage.We tapped into people’s passion for Iceland and encouraged them to tell their stories to the world,and because it came from them (and not the government) it rapidly drove reappraisal of the countryand inspired people to visit again.Planning’s contribution was to change the nature of the brief and challenge the conventions of the category,from creating communications that drive acquisition of tourists to creating communications that inspirefan participation.This paper shows that starting from a model of unity rather than inﬂuence can create a new levelof social participation that gives thousands of people a voice and can unite a mass movement behinda common purpose. Word Count: 1480
CREATIVE BRIEFTHE PROBLEM Iceland is a country under siege.In the wake of the volcano that bought Europe to standstill, tourist numbers have plummeted 30%. If this continuesthere will be huge consequences. Over 60% of people in Iceland (a country of only 318,000) are connected to tourismand the continued decline will result in huge job losses and lead the nation to another disaster.THE ROLE FOR COMMUNICATIONS Iceland is suffering from a massive ‘misinformation’ problem as negative newstories are building momentum online. Recent tracking studies show that travel intent has plummeted across allkey markets.Therefore the rumours – that Iceland is dangerous and not safe to visit – need to be tackled head-on.We need to Make The Truth Heard.We have to show the world that Iceland is a safe place to visit and that the country is open for business and morealive than ever before.WHO VISITS ICELAND? People who visit Iceland are seasoned travelers who are worldly and open-minded. A tripto Reykjavik is seen as an alternative to a weekend break in Paris or Berlin. They want their holiday to be full ofinspiring moments and we know that over 80% of people who have visited Iceland would recommend it to friends,family and colleagues.WHAT WE NEED TO DO We need to get fans of Iceland to set the record straight on our behalf with a campaign thatstimulates our fans at home and abroad to share their stories about Iceland with the world.Let’s use the media being used to spread the misperceptions of Iceland - news, social media, PR, blogs – to ouradvantage, getting our fans to spread their stories, countering the tide of negative sentiment online.