Air Canada flies the flag for Canadians in California

Who: Air Canada, with Weber Shandwick Canada for PR.

What: “#FlytheFlag in California,” the latest chapter in the brand’s bilingual “Fly the Flag” content platform, which spotlights Canadians chasing their dreams and making their mark in international markets.

Air Canada first introduced “Fly the Flag” to showcase Canadian athletes competing at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but has since migrated the platform to social media and expanded it to include everyday Canadians doing noteworthy things on the international stage. The California iteration follows previous chapters focusing on Paris and Mumbai.

When & Where: The campaign debuted on Sept. 24 and is running on Air Canada-owned channels including its in-flight entertainment system and social feeds. There will also be some paid media support.

Why: Like many brands, Air Canada has moved more of its marketing dollars into digital/social channels in recent years. This program is a reflection of that shift, says John Xydous, the airline’s director of brand strategy and content marketing.

Xydous joined Air Canada five years ago to oversee the company’s social media channels, a role that has evolved as the company identified the need to produce more content reflecting its brand values.

Air Canada has gone from producing one piece of significant social content a year to between 10 and 12 pieces says Xydous. Its content team has also grown, now numbering around 10 people.

There’s an increased appetite for this type of marketing within Air Canada, he says. “People outside of the [content] department have come to appreciate what it does. As competition increases and more people start to copy what your product is… people are going to base their decision on how they feel about your brand. That’s where this kind of content comes into play: Share what you stand for and hopefully people will agree with your values.”

How: The California chapter of #FlytheFlag focuses on three Canadians achieving success in wildly disparate areas:

  • Brendan Beesley: A 3D animator from Burlington, Ont. who lives in San Francisco and works at Pixar Studios. His credits include The Incredibles 2, Coco and Finding Dory;
  • Christina de la Cruz: A dancer from Toronto who lives in Los Angeles. She performs on-stage alongside major artists including Drake and Cardi B;
  • Patrice Breton: A winemaker from Longueuil, Que. based in St. Helena in California’s Napa Valley. He is the founder and owner of Vice Versa Wines.

While there is some Air Canada branding at the beginning and end of the 80-second video, the focus is squarely on the subjects. “Its not about trying to sneak in our logo in as many frames as possible,” says Xydous. “The attention is on Canadians, and we’re comfortable with that.”

The program is developed in association with Alen Palander, a renowned Canadian photographer and creative director who has more than 500,000 followers on Instagram.

Working with Palandar enables Air Canada to align with a respected creator who sees projects through a content lens rather than a marketing lens, says Xydous. “We’re not working with him for him to produce our vision—we can do that in traditional advertising,” he says. “We’re working with him because we want his vision.”

Has it worked?: Xydous says that Air Canada was “caught off guard” by the campaign’s success. The Mumbai chapter has amassed more than 3.9 million views on YouTube alone, while the Paris video has more than 1.6 million views.

The completion rates for the videos are among the highest completion rate of any of the airline’s YouTube videos.


Chris Powell