When you think of extreme winter outdoor activities – battling the elements, fighting back harsh winds, blinding snow and bitter cold – the slang term ‘metal’ might be one that comes to mind. After all, even Canadians have to be pretty hardcore to voluntarily find a reason to experience more of winter’s brutal effects. 

On the other hand, you don’t have to have the same level of spirit to go vacationing in Yukon. Sure, it has a reputation for being a place with not much going on and the aforementioned rough conditions, but this is greatly overexaggerated when even in the winter, tourists mostly do things like chill in the hot springs, partake in ice fishing, or go dog sledding across the expansive landscape.

Of course, not all Canadians knew this, which was proving a bit of a problem for Travel Yukon. And, as such, it teamed up with Cossette Vancouver to remedy the situation… in epic fashion. Playing with the idea that, on paper, one might have to be ‘metal’ to go to such a location, the two created a full metal music video – complete with guitar solos, authentic costumes and relevant lyrics – to emphasise the fact that, in reality, one only needs to be ‘a little bit metal’ to enjoy a winter vacation in Yukon. 

To learn more about how this came to life, LBB’s Josh Neufeldt sat down with Cossette Vancouver associate creative director, Michael Pal, and Travel Yukon’s digital marketing strategist Annie-Claude Dupuis for a chat.

LBB> A full-length metal song to promote Travel Yukon is awesome! How did this come to pass, and what was the brief for this campaign?

Annie-Claude> The brief was to create a campaign that would get Canadians to visit the Yukon in the winter months.

We recognise that visiting the Yukon in the winter isn’t for everyone, and want to show those who might be up for it (but are still hesitant) that there’s actually a lot to do here. By addressing key travel barriers, we’re showing our target audience that visiting the Yukon in winter is worth it, because it’s truly a different world up here, with one-of-a-kind experiences to entertain all manner of travellers looking for a unique adventure.

By leveraging the common pop culture expression ‘being metal’, we’re showing how the unique activities available in the Yukon might appear rugged and ‘metal’, but the modern comforts make it more accessible than people think. So, for this concept, we wanted to make a metal track that not only reflected the campaign goal, but would also become a song that people actively sought out. We opted for a full-length track that could be edited for cutdowns for campaign ads.

LBB> Specifically, tell us about the misconceptions people have about Yukon. What should more Canadians be aware of? 

Annie-Claude> Our research shows that Canadians think there’s nothing to do in the Yukon… especially in the winter. They think it’s beautiful, but fear that a winter vacation in the Yukon might be boring or intimidating. They also think it’s hard to get here, and that it’s too remote and expensive.

As the video shows, there are a lot of activities to do in the Yukon – even in the winter – and for every type of traveller, not just hard-core winter lovers. There are things that can make it a rather cosy vacation as well, like the Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs. We’re also a short 2.5-hour flight from Vancouver, with two different airlines making the trip to Whitehorse a few times a day in the winter.

LBB> And as a whole, why was this the right time to push for Yukon tourism?

Annie-Claude> We’ve been actively promoting the Yukon as a year-round travel destination since 2001, but we recently identified fall and winter tourism as a potential growth opportunity, particularly given that we have more capacity in these seasons than in summer. However, it’s a challenging sell for Canadians who often dream of warmer destinations in the winter. We were hoping that releasing the campaign this winter would plant a seed in their mind and spur them to book a trip next winter. That said, given the success of this campaign, we’re considering using it again in the fall for a shorter booking period.

LBB> Creatively, building on the theme of only needing to be ‘a little bit metal’ is funny! When it came to the writing process, how did you approach achieving this balanced tone?

Michael> All the RTBs laddered up so perfectly to this notion of being ‘a little bit metal’ that it came pretty effortlessly. We just leaned into some of the over-the-top tropes of being ‘metal’ and dialled it back from 11. In the context of winter travel, it just ended up making everything hilarious.  

LBB> Building on this, how did you decide what sequences and activities you wanted to showcase in the video, and where did you source the footage from?

Michael> A few of the activities, like dog sledding and snowmobiling, are big drivers for tourism up there, so it made sense to highlight them. Others we just felt made sense with the idea. Going sightseeing over frozen peaks in a tiny aeroplane? Definitely a little bit metal. And reframing something like ice fishing as a badass activity was just fun, and it hopefully got some people to consider trying it, or at least think about it differently. 

We shot almost everything on location in the Yukon just this past December, with the exception of one or two shots we pulled from existing client assets (all shot in the Yukon, of course).

LBB> We have to talk about the musical performance itself. How did you work with Flip78 on the songwriting process, and lyrically, how did this come to life? 

Michael> Shout-out to Eric Mosher of Flip78! He totally understood what we were looking for. We wrote all the lyrics, but once it came to adding some mind-bending guitar solos – that’s where Eric and the metal band Mob Machine came in. They helped bring the whole thing to life. The whole process was super collaborative.

LBB> In terms of shooting, what was that experience like? Tell us more about your time in the Yukon!

Michael> Everything was shot with a local production company, GBP. The team knows the Yukon inside and out, and were our boots on the ground when it came to finding the best locations for the video. 

The best way to describe the experience is cold. There was a lot of unpredictability with the weather. The whole thing was a bit of a gamble, because there was a chance of it not being cold enough for the lake at Shallow Bay to freeze over, or it being so cold that the film gear could stop working. Luckily, we hit the sweet spot where neither of those things happened.

LBB> How long did this process take, and do you have any anecdotes from the set?

Michael> Shooting took place over a couple of days. We had to switch locations at the last minute, as the winds were so strong that the warming tents were being blown away as we were setting them up.

LBB> The costuming is amazing, both for the all-black aesthetics and the hot spring ones. What did it take to get the performers geared up properly?

Michael> Wardrobe was a combination of sourcing pieces and also custom-making our own. We worked with a stylist to tailor the outfits to each band member, and also had a health and safety plan to make sure we were equipped to deal with frigid temperatures.

LBB> Were there any sequences that were particularly fun or challenging to film? Please tell us about them!

Michael> The drone shots of the band on the frozen lake really paid off. And the stuff at the Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs was challenging, if only for the fact that we had to watch the performers enjoying themselves in the steaming hot pools while we stood around in the cold.

LBB> The edit is also amazing – it really captures that classic metal music video vibe! How did this aspect come to life, and how did you capture the feel in such an authentic way?

Michael> We’re lucky that the creative team was well versed in the genre and are music nerds in general. We also really leaned on our editor and the team at Wallop, who collectively have a tonne of music video experience and just totally understood the ask.  

LBB> What challenges did you face during this project, and how did you overcome them?

Michael> The limited daylight and intense winter weather made the shoot itself a little bit metal too! We had to be on our toes with some last-minute location changes, and took frequent breaks to make sure the performers didn’t freeze! 

Annie-Claude> The first challenge we faced was timing. Working with local producers is very important to us. They know the land and the people, and they take great pride in creating content to promote the Yukon. We wanted to launch the campaign last winter, but couldn’t find a local producer available to film and edit the video in time. So, we went ahead and recorded the song in spring 2023, then secured local producers for November–December 2023.

Filming in the Yukon in the winter is also no small feat. Temperatures can drop as low as -40 degrees, so we had to plan for a wardrobe that would keep our talent warm while still looking metal. Also, sometimes winter comes later, and it’s hard to have these beautiful snowy vistas before November – at one point, we even feared that the lakes wouldn’t freeze in time. The days in November and December are also very short, with the sun rising at 11 am and setting at 4:45 pm in Whitehorse, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for filming outdoors.

All in all, doing something very unique and different can be a challenge, particularly when you’re a government body. Although the campaigns are focused on southern Canadians, it’s important that our work also resonate with Yukoners who are passionate about how their territory is portrayed. Internally, we worked hard to build excitement and buy-in within the territory at every level. This included ensuring that the tactics were well understood internally by the government and externally by our stakeholders. Before it launched, we presented it to tourism sector advocates and businesses, introducing the brief first, then presenting the video and campaign plan. All this was instrumental to having a broader level of support when the campaign was launched, and allowed us to respond to concerns or criticisms with facts.

LBB> What lessons have you learned from the creation of this campaign?

Michael> That no brief is too small to propose a wild, off-the-wall idea for. You never know – the client might fall in love with it and you’ll get to make something really cool. 

Also, that shooting in the Yukon in the middle of winter has its own unique set of challenges. (And also that we’re extremely lucky to have such trusting and open-minded clients). 

Annie-Claude> We’re very lucky to work with an incredibly creative marketing agency and with people who think outside the box and challenge us to push destination marketing beyond what people expect. To be honest, the team had to do some convincing when they initially presented the concept, but trusting them was the right choice, and we worked together to build a great campaign.

Equally important; keeping local residents involved and informed takes more time, but helps contribute to the success of a project like this one. Every time we develop a campaign, we learn a little bit more about how Yukoners want to be involved or informed. We always try to apply these lessons the next time.

LBB> How have people been responding to the campaign since it launched? 

Michael> Well, the minister of tourism and culture tattooed the words ‘cozy fire’ on his knuckles just like in the video… although unfortunately, it was only a temporary tattoo. Otherwise, people seem to be loving it. Lots of positive comments on social, which, as we all know, doesn’t happen very often for brands. 

Annie-Claude> There was a huge element of surprise, as the concept is distinctive and disruptive in the category, allowing us to stand out from other Canadian destinations. The local tourism industry reacted very positively, and this was important to us as it’s our primary stakeholder. Our department leaders also loved it, including our premier and, as mentioned above, the minister of tourism and culture. Additionally, some local businesses asked us for permission to sell branded merchandise following the launch of the video.

We also received mostly very positive comments from locals and other Canadians on social media. Some people even said that they’d never considered coming to the Yukon, but after seeing the spot, they were ready to book a trip immediately. The genre doesn’t resonate with everyone, and winter in the Yukon is not for everyone, so we did receive some negative comments, but the campaign has mostly been very well received. As of March 26th, the full-length video on YouTube had generated almost 417 thousand views, making it by far our most popular video to date.

LBB> How does this campaign fit into Travel Yukon’s branding for 2024 and beyond? 

Annie-Claude> The Travel Yukon brand has an inclusive, offbeat, creative, and energetic personality. Metal culture and its connotations are experiencing a pop culture resurgence, so the genre remains relevant to our demographic and aligns with our brand. We’ve been injecting humour into our marketing for several years and will continue to do so.

It was important for us to have a very diverse cast for this campaign. The video includes people of different ethnic backgrounds, ages, physical abilities, etc., to fully represent the Yukon’s diversity and inclusivity. We’ll continue to make this a priority moving forward.

LBB> Finally, what’s your favourite scene from the video, and why?

Michael> That shot of the moose with lightning shooting out of its eyes just speaks to me, tied with everything in the hot springs. That whole section will never not make me laugh!

Annie-Claude> At 1:48, the lead singer emerges from the water and stands up slowly, looking so serious. It never fails to crack me up, even after seeing it a hundred times. It’s so unexpected, especially going from the frozen lake scene to suddenly being in the hot spring. And the look on his face is a perfect representation of the video’s parody style.

Source link