Travel Manitoba immerses Calgary LRT in wildlife

travel manitoba Calgary polar bear2

Transit riders in Calgary can imagine the Manitoba wilderness a little bit easier thanks to the newest part of the province’s “Canada’s Heart Beats” campaign.

The ads appear in Calgary’s Marlbourough and Southland LRT stations on traditional display faces, but are also wrapped around staircases, walls, floors and on the sides of trains. The two stations see 30,000 combined travellers in an average day.

The OOH elements of the campaign are meant to reflect what an actual visit to Manitoba’s wilderness would be like. That may seem like an exaggeration when the ads feature life-sized polar bears leaning against a train, but that ability to get within sniffing distance is something that Travel Manitoba and Winnipeg-based McKim Communications Group, which did the media and creative on the campaign, wanted to convey with the scale and ubiquitousness of the station domination.

“We really wanted to give a sense of how the experiences in Manitoba are immersive,” Linda Whitfield, VP of marketing and communications at Travel Manitoba, tells MiC. “It’s an accessible wilderness, not just in terms of its proximity from a major centre. You can get up close and personal to the polar bears and belugas, they’re not just off far in the distance.”

Calgary was chosen as the site of the campaign because research showed that it had the largest concentrated pocket of the type of person Travel Manitoba is trying to reach: travellers looking for adventurous, close-to-nature experiences.

“These are the same people that will go on an African safari or go kayaking around South Georgia Island near the Antarctic,” says Peter George, president and CEO of McKim. “We looked at Vancouver and Toronto, but in the scope of this campaign, we wanted to make the biggest impact for the investment.”

McKim has worked with Travel Manitoba in the past, but this is the first full-scale campaign they’ve done for the tourism board and the first time Travel Manitoba has done a campaign this large and targeted.

“We did quite an extensive agency review process,” Whitfield says. “A number of different agencies submitted, but McKim brought the combination of creativity and past history in terms of campaigns like this.”

In particular, Travel Manitoba hopes to spotlight the province’s summer and winter Arctic safaris, with a focus on Winnipeg’s arts and culture environment, including the soon-to-be-opened Canadian Human Rights Museum, coming down the line. Whitfield says the campaign is a part of long-term branding for the province’s tourism industry, with any future campaigns maintaining the message.

“We may expand into different geographic markets, perhaps, where those travel types live and travel to, but we won’t be changing the brand any time soon,” she says. “We’ve invested in a lot of research to identify those key traveller groups, with a lot of help from the Canadian Tourism Commission.”

The “Canada’s Heart Beats” campaign began in February with TV ads that aired along with the Winter Olympics and has since expanded into digital ads and a presence on Air Canada’s video-on-demand service. The Calgary edition of Metro also recently featured a full wraparound ad.

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