Unorthadox Works if you Throw Caution to the Wind

This morning got a little interesting for me and it is the perfect example of unorthodox marketing. An ad grabbed my attention, made me think, called me to action (this post) and is now spreading. In fact, an hour ago I had no idea that I would still be sitting here writing…. all because of a little ad.

Here I was sitting at my desk and getting ready to toss the 2010 Bedouk Meetings Planners Guide into the recycle bin (I have no use for printed things like this anymore) when I dropped the sucker in and got an eyefull of a$$. I actually had to get it back out of the recycle bin and check to be sure. Yep, that was an eyeful of a$$ alright.

I was going to tear off the back cover, scan it and post the picture with a little “posted without comment” tag because I found it hilarious, I thought it was fun and I thought it was crazy. What could this guys arse have to do with Norway.

I laughed so hard I nearly wet my pants, those crazy Norwegians……

Then I got to thinking… that the image of this man’s behind is going to be forever associated with Norway for me, didn’t I owe it to myself to find out the story behind it, didn’t I owe it to you?

So began the journey to find out about one man’s a$$ and how it ended up on the back of the Bedouk Meeting Planner’s Guide 2010 and what it means to event and destination marketers.

What I found out was something that I already knew but something that we should all be reminded of from time to time. The unorthodox can pay dividends that you might not even realize, the silly can spell big bucks and bucking conventional marketing trends can do a destination (or an event) a lot of good.

Here is what I found out with a little google search. There is a quick article in Kongress Magazine.

How does something like this come to be?

First, there was getting the ad put together…. “Norway for Natural Reasons”.  Apparently this little spot had a €150 development budget, I can see that, after all there is no warddrobe budget, probably just some powder and a sock.

Second, there was getting this little gem to market. For that, the Norway Convention Bureau spent €1m. Honestly, that is a decent budget for a country this size and for a Bureau. My hat is off to them.

Then there is the results waiting factor and I am sure that there were some anxious moments. Putting this man’s backside out there to represent your country in a business sense is pretty risky. I can just imagine those weekly meetings “Sven, do you have this weeks a$$ report”….

The folks at the Norway Convention Bureau did not have to wait long. According to the article, this campaign had fantastic results. With meeting planners, it scored an astounding 84% postive for approach and the resulting economic benefit from the campaign was €93.6m. That is a lot of underwear my friends.

Daring gets noticed, daring will get people to stand up and pay attention. Ask Lady Gaga, Elton John (not today’s icky version, the old Capt Fantastic version), early 90’s Madonna or even Wendy’s (Where’s the Beef). Like these artists and companies, the Norway Campaign won accolades for its little feat of daring-do. This ad won the ICCA Marketing Award in 2009. This award may not be a CLIO but it is recognition from within our own industry which only brings more attention to the campaign and to Norway which is exactly what they want. Marketing works when you are hitting your target market with message that gets noticed.

Norway’s daring continues to pay benefits. With the award came the prize and in this case the brass ring was a marketing package in ICCA and Bedouk publications worth more than €10,000. This cheeky little ad was getting even more exposure and is still working today.

This ad has crossed the imaginary wall that all marketers wish to jump, the one thing that seperates the daring from the flop, the hip from the stupid, the cool from the insane. It is now viral, it is now travelling via Word of Mouth, it is spreading itself. This is the one place where marketers get their a$$es kicked on a daily basis. They try and they try to come up with something that will sell itself and they fail everyday (I do on a regular basis).

Granted, this ad is not viral like that YouTube Kid who went to the dentist or the Dove Evolution campaign but it did go viral within the meetings and events industry, which is a best case scenario for Norway. Think about it, I am talking about it here and if one person retweets this or shares it with someone, it has taken yet another viral leap forward and now another person is thinking about Norway as a destination for meetings and events.

Great ideas have worked splendidly for destinations in the past. There was the “What Happens in Vegas” campaign, the Tourism Queensland “Best Job in the World” Campaign and even the really old but still remembered “I Love New York” Campaign from the 70’s and 80’s (people my age will get a kick out of the New York ad).

These were amazingly successful, but for every success there are the campaigns that made you go “huh” or actually frightened you.

Columbia For destinations, the worst campaign in recent history that I can think of is for the country of Colombia. They actually had the tag line: “The Greatest Risk is Wanting to Stay”. Can you believe that. OMG, WTF…. a country that is known (rightly or wrongly) for drug killings, kidnappings and narcotraffickers should not be calling attention to this fact and using the word “risk” in their ad campaign. They have an explanation of the campign on their website, but my thought is, if you have to explain an ad campaign, then it has failed miserably.

Another destination marketing failure was actually one of the best in its heyday and I even mention it above as one of the best. Funny how something can be both the best and the worst, but the difference between success and failure is timing in some cases.

I am talking about the “What Happens in Vegas” campaign. After the AIG debacle broke, they were actually still using this little spot. I saw this gem about a week after all of our Incentive Business dried up and I wanted to scream. I could not believe that they were still running ads like this when the walls were buring around them. Incentives were being hammered, the industry was scrambling to save itself and they were still plodding along like everything was hunky-dory.


So how do you know which campaigns are going to be successes and which will be failures?

You don’t and that is why you have to be ready. You have to be ready to pull the bad and ready to pour more money into the successful. I for one think that a series of naked butt dude YouTube videos would have been spectacular and could have taken this campaign to the stratosphere. It would have certainly gotten the meeting and event industry talking.

I guess the moral to the story is to encourage being risky because the unorthodox can bring huge results for any event or destination. These types of campaigns can do a lot of good and bring in much needed meeting and event spend that we all crave.

But the risky and unorthodox also has a dark side, being risky can also bring pain and suffering and make you look like an a$$wipe….

Let’s be careful out there!



Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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