Cape Town Tourism wins Gold at Cannes, but Cape Town tourism in the red!

Cape Town Tourism’s ‘Send your Facebook Profile to Cape Town‘ promotion won its creators Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town a Gold Lion in the Branded Content and Entertainment category for its ‘Best use or integration of digital or Social Media’ on the last day of the Cannes Lions 60th International Festival of Creativity on Saturday, one of 17 Gold Lion winners in the category. Sadly, no effect of the promotion is evident, Cape Town suffering its worst tourism winter season ever.

The Facebook campaign was conceptualised when Cape Town Tourism briefed Ogilvy & Mather to develop a campaign running from October to December 2012, to attract more visitors to our beautiful city, one would assume. The campaign goal was not documented in the Cape Town Tourism media statement at the time. The Ogilvy & Mather campaign rationale states that the goal was ‘to increase tourism during the festive season’. The Festive Season is the best booked of the whole year in Cape Town, so one wonders why Cape Town Tourism wanted to attract even more tourists in a period which needs no marketing at all!  Budget was limited. As Facebook is known for the medium in which one posts one’s photographs, including those of one’s holiday, a Facebook App was developed for the promotion. In essence, one was invited to send one’s Facebook profile on holiday to Cape Town, with the chance of making that holiday come true.  Over a five day period, the participating Facebook account holders received real-time status updates, photographs, and videos about Cape Town, to give them a taste of the city, and for them to share the information virally with their Facebook friends. To run the campaign, the ad agency shot 150 videos, wrote 400 status updates, and took 10000 holiday photographs of Cape Town.  The ultimate prize was an all-expenses paid holiday to Cape Town, which was won by Jan van der Leeuw from Canada, with Nadia Jeffries being the (local) second prize winner.

The biggest problem with the campaign is the measurement of success from a tourism perspective, Ogilvy & Mather’s Cannes’ entry claiming the following successes:

‘*   Cape Town received a 4% increase in tourism.
*    Table Mountain received a record number of visitors.
*    Next year’s bookings are already up by 118%.
*    During the campaign Cape Town Tourism’s Facebook page received over 20 000 likes.
*    Over 350 000 potential tourists engaged with our campaign.
*    Roughly half a million impressions were generated on Facebook alone.
*    44 000 friends were invited to send their Facebook profiles to Cape Town.
*    In free PR and earned media, we received a 100% return on investment’.

The campaign success claims make the Cape Town tourism industry and the Cannes judges look stupid, as the impact of Facebook campaign success on tourism cannot be measured in isolation, the success claims being vague, and the time periods for which the success was measured not being defined.  A media statement issued in January by Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, stated that 8212 persons had ‘played the game’, being from South Africa, the UK, USA, India, and Germany, contradicting the above Ogilvy & Mather stats.  There are no statistics that measure the Festive Season visitorship in Cape Town.  The claim about the increase in bookings for 2014 is the most outrageous of those presented to the Cannes’ judges, and are downright misleading and false. The PR claim makes no sense. Tourists are booking more and more last minute, and few book longer than six months in advance.  The current winter is the worst ever experienced in Cape Town and the Western Cape, the Youth Day long weekend attracting minimal accommodation visitors, and restaurants are closing down as the economic decline bites.

The big question is how many of the Facebook friends of Cape Town Tourism are Capetonians, who would not be the target market.  We entered the promotion, receiving status updates and e-mails over the five day period, and then the communication stopped abruptly, without a farewell or a call to action!  The promotion design did not pick up that we live in Cape Town, and assumed that we were from elsewhere, negating the ‘unique itinerary’ claim.  We have not received any follow-up communication, as claimed by Mrs Helmbold: ‘All players of the Facebook game will now be included on Cape Town Tourism’s visitor database and will be given first opportunity to participate in new campaigns, whilst receiving regular updates about new developments and special deals in Cape Town‘.

The first Cape Town Tourism media statement about the promotion boldly but falsely claimed its potential success: ‘Cape Town is expecting a massive influx of extra visitors in the next three months without many of them actually leaving their homes (as yet). These will be virtual visitors experiencing the delights of the Cape via a world-first Facebook-based travel app‘.  She added that it ‘will give thousands of people a chance to do a virtual ‘test drive’ of a trip to Cape Town in a really engaging way, and it should whet appetites around the country and around the world, resulting in more arrivals for Cape Town’.

It was impossible to ever measure the success of the Cape Town Tourism ‘Send your Facebook Profile to Cape Town’ promotion in isolation, especially given that every recent tourism ‘success’ has been attributed to a different reason: Table Mountain being named New7Wonders of Nature, then it was due to Cape Town being named World Design Capital 2014, and now it’s the Facebook promotion! In reality, there has been no success, with tourism in Cape Town getting worse year on year, yet the local industry is misled with ‘statistics’ of success by Cape Town Tourism and Councillor Grant Pascoe, Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Events, and Marketing. The change in Cape Town Tourism’s management at the end of July cannot happen quickly enough!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: Twitter: @WhaleCottage

One reply

  1. André Hübner says:


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