As the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 sparked stay-at-home orders, travel bans, and general uncertainty, travelers cancelled plans and the tourism industry faced the dilemma of encouraging health and safety while promoting travel.
The Wisconsin Department of Tourism wanted to face this challenge by inspiring future travel.
One initiative, Slow TV, was designed to address a trifecta of target needs: provide a sense of relaxation, inspiration for future trips, and a surprise for those unfamiliar with what Wisconsin has to offer.
When developing the strategy, we knew our target audience, females 25-44, interested in creating memorable travel experiences, were:
Hiebing concepted with these objectives and audience habits in mind, and the Slow TV video series was born.
Once we knew we were focusing on video, we audited available metrics to develop awareness and engagement goals; our goal was to meet or surpass averages from the past 15 months (50 YouTube videos from 1.1.19-3.1.20):
The Slow TV concept is inherently a longform content experience that gives the storytelling the chance to breathe, ideal for helping travelers relax with stunning views and linger with the possibility in front of them. This was a new approach for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism (WDT), so we took the opportunity to stay nimble throughout the campaign, creating videos one at a time to address changing target concerns and travel orders in our scripts, and testing video placements to learn which channels drove the most impressions and longest view durations so we could leverage that information for future campaigns.
Production during a global pandemic, of course, posed a challenge; with stay-at-home orders in place, we could not mount our typical production and had to rely on existing footage in our library. Fortunately, we had access to stunning “from the air” footage captured from planes, helicopters and drones, across all corners of our state. It was footage we were craving to find the right moment to share, and this was it.
To start this series, we generated a list of our most surprising and awe-inspiring state assets – these ended up being the themes for each video, progressing through the list as the campaign continued:
Through the editing process and as the stories evolved, we also had the challenge of stabilizing and stitching together footage from an array of cameras, speeds and environments to tell one cohesive story. Using strategic clip durations, fades, light flares, color blocking that cued taking breaths in and out, and footage speed tweaks helped considerably; incorporating calming music and pause-rich voiceover made the edited footage a 4-minute seamless, enchanting story.
Then came placement. YouTube was a must for us because of its strength in delivering impressions and facilitating website embedding, but we also tested Facebook and Instagram placements, including our first foray into Instagram’s IGTV, because of their propensity to drive video views. In addition to media support, we featured these videos in our traveler emails (which go out to a subscriber list of 140k+), updates to industry stakeholders and the state legislature, and organic sharing with local travel organizations.
Throughout the series, we made a few shifts to optimize performance, including discontinuing Instagram IGTV/Stories placements, adding a paid YouTube placement, and expanding our audience to include out-of-state potential travelers. In doing so, we were able to drive even more impressions and inspiration for Wisconsin travel while maintaining higher than average view durations and low cost per engagement throughout the series.
Happily, this series was discovered and then featured in the Wall Street Journal, which helped drive the success of the stories and therefore awareness of what Wisconsin has to offer. It was also well-received by residents and past visitors who shared fond memories and endearing comments. But the proof is in the numbers:
Goals – meet or surpass all previous video averages (50 YouTube videos, 1.1.19-3.1.20):
While we met impressions, views and view duration goals, the percent viewed was lower than our goal. However, knowing these videos were all approximately 4 minutes long when most of our videos are 1 minute or less, this isn’t unexpected.
Slow TV’s success continues to drive in-depth storytelling considerations to immerse travelers in what Wisconsin has to offer.
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