Ad pro assesses tourism campaign

I am a former advertising executive having worked at such prestigious advertising agencies as J. Walter Thompson, McCann-Erickson, TBWA Chiat/Day and Deutsch. I also led advertising campaigns on travel-related accounts for Portuguese tourism, Iberia Airlines, Aeromexico and Fiesta Americana Hotels.

I mention my background because I want to establish my credentials before commenting on the savetheAmericans and savetheCanadians campaigns on your article of Jan. 22nd titled “Travel firm also targets unused U. S. vacation time.” As you pointed out “The Web site had a 1,219,717 Alexa ranking earlier today. The Canadian site appeared to have fewer visitors, and it was ranked at 2,028,947 early today.”

The first rule in advertising is to create AWARENESS. If the message does not get seen or heard often enough it will not be effective no matter how good the message, and from the Alexa statistics that definitely seems to be the case. The reason that this promotion/campaign seems to be focusing only on social media is because a $3 million investment is a paltry sum and the agency made a decision that it has to concentrate the dollars on only one medium however ineffective. Social media is cheaper than mass media. Costa Rica tourism can take solace in saying “Look we are promoting Costa Rican tourism,” but in reality they are kidding themselves if they think that this campaign will have any significant impact.

As you have written before, these Web sites tend to be looked at by younger and less affluent readers and what Costa Rica tourism needs to be doing is going after older Baby Boomers that have the disposable income to take vacations. In order to reach Baby Boomers, the message has to be delivered by a combination of television and print advertising. The use of social media should not be abandoned, but it should only be used if the advertising budget is large enough.

With the small advertising budget, Costa Rica tourism will not be able to get the message out in an effective manner. Let’s remember that there are other destinations besides Costa Rica fighting for the share of mind of consumers. The message also has to be compelling enough to position Costa Rica as a place that a vacationer would want to visit. Costa Rica is in a battle with other destinations and it seems to be losing the war with the current strategy.

Walter Balan
Fort Myers, Florida


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