Classic campaign #4
Westjet's Christmas miracle takes off
In this series, we revisit some of our all-time favourite advertising campaigns to explore what made them brilliant then, and what lessons they can offer today. Campaign number 4 is a festive classic from Canadian airline, Westjet.
Airports aren’t the jolliest of places in the run up to Christmas. People rushing here, there and everywhere trying to get back home (or, sometimes, as far away as possible). It’s busy. It’s cold. A minor delay can cause a major headache. Lost luggage can mean lost gifts. A cancelled flight can be the difference between arriving on Christmas Eve and eating a warmed-up-in-the-microwave Christmas dinner on Boxing Day.
So, when someone comes along with a simple gesture of goodwill, asking for nothing in return, its impact can be profound. And that’s just what WestJet did with their Christmas Miracle campaign.
WestJet’s Christmas Miracle
No strangers to viral videos, WestJet, Canada’s second largest airline, spent one snowy December day in 2013 transforming a small section of airport into Santa’s workshop. Their brief: to bring a little festive cheer to 250 lucky – if unsuspecting – passengers.
There’s no bells, no whistles. Just a hidden camera, an experiential concept, and a quickly edited video, posted only on YouTube.
It starts when a purple-cladded Father Christmas appears on life-size screens at boarding gates in Toronto and Hamilton airports, in Ontario, Canada. He asks boarding passengers what they want for Christmas. Little do they know, 175 WestJet employees are listening in behind the scenes and scribbling away each response.
When the planes take off, the employees get to work; shopping for, wrapping and labelling those very gifts. So when the planes land in Calgary a few hours later, the gifts are there, wrapped up, ready and waiting on the baggage carousel. One for each passenger.
From socks and flight tickets to a big-screen TV, one by one the gifts are unwrapped to surprise, laughter, a few tears and, most importantly, some very happy customers.
The footage was quickly condensed into a 5-minute video, complete with a Night Before Christmas style narrative, and put online for the world to see.
Why it’s a viral video classic
From getting merked (anyone?) to YouTube pranksters, all too often “hidden camera” means having a laugh at someone else’s expense, without them knowing about it. It can feel cruel. And micky taking. But Christmas Miracle is different. It’s kind. It’s fun. It’s natural. It’s something you wish you were a part of. (Except, of course, you hope you’d have asked for something better than a pair of socks.)
And it doesn’t fall into the trap of over-sentimentality either. It wasn’t overly hyped. They didn’t draw it out, or try to flog a cheap flight off the back of it. It was a gesture of goodwill. That’s it.
Of course, it is a branding exercise. WestJet expect return on their investment. And a 320% rise in YouTube subscribers in the first three days might well be the kind of return they were searching for.
The video itself has had upwards of 47 million views on YouTube, not to mention countless shares across social media. And besides, the expense of buying, wrapping and delivering 250 presents cost considerably less than your usual seasonal TV ad would.
And as a viewer, it leaves you feeling good. It’s a story you talk about. A story you want to share. Isn’t that a great response to a campaign?
What most likely started out as “the Christmas card brief” turned into a feel-good viral video that made a lot of people very happy indeed – to the tune of a 50” Plasma TV in one passenger’s case. (Let’s hope it wasn’t a connecting flight, right.?)
It gives a lot. It asks for little. It makes you feel good.
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Also published on Medium.