Niagara Falls backs up Alessia Cara on The Late Show

Niagara Falls enjoyed a special appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert this week as part of a tourism marketing campaign by creative agency Zerotrillion.

The world-famous tourist destination served as the backdrop for a performance by Grammy winner Alessia Cara, who sang a new track from her upcoming album.

The appearance and carefully choreographed performance was part of larger marketing campaign for Niagara Falls Tourism which—like so many tourist destinations—is looking to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic, and, in part, is emphasizing live entertainment to do so.

On Monday’s episode of The Late Show, Colbert introduced Cara: “Now performing her new single ‘Sweet Dream’ from Niagara Falls, Alessia Cara.” The performance begins with Cara on a bed before she steps through a curtain onto the deck of a sightseeing boat, the Falls glowing behind her and her band.

While the iconic Falls were seen only in the background, the performance will have a big impact on positioning Niagara Falls as a place to go for live entertainment as Covid restrictions ease, said Zerotrillion CEO Alex Paquin. “This is about building equity in Niagara Falls as a destination for excitement and live entertainment. These are the things Niagara Falls wants to be known for.”

The appearance on Colbert was just the first stage in a much larger program, but early results demonstrate the value of marketing that is able to bridge creativity and entertainment, he said.

“We could have taken the budget for this and bought banner ads that say, ‘Don’t forget Niagara Falls,'” he said. But Colbert speaking to his audience and introducing Cara from Niagara Falls has a tangibly different impact on viewers than a paid ad, he said. Beyond that, the performance garnered additional earned media exposure on entertainment news shows and even coverage in Rolling Stone.

“We’re already at, I think, 130 million media impressions since Monday,” said Paquin. The same budget spent on a typical media buy would have got a little more than 200,000 impressions, he said. This is content that has value to media outlets and Alessia Cara, he said, “and of course it makes Niagara Falls the hero destination of it all.”

Another Cara performance is scheduled to air on MTV on Friday night, and the agency has captured several other performances around Niagara Falls—both of new songs and rearrangements of earlier hits—and is putting them together for a much longer (40 minute-plus) piece of content that some broadcaster may not only run, but pay to run, he said.

“Genuine, authentic entertainment that fits within the target group of people we want to reach, creates a moment in culture that can do more for you than a banner ad or a TV spot,” said Paquin.

The agency has also launched a more traditional and tactical TV advertising campaign with a clear call to action to book a trip and visit the Niagara Falls Tourism website. The “Just Far Enough Away” campaign includes two TV spots focusing on the Falls as a destination that people can easily drive to for a vacation.

Rather than featuring the Falls or any of the other attractions associated with the city, the ads show contented visitors returning home from their trip.

“Our focus was to reverse the wide net we had cast on a global audience and focus inwards on the millions of Canadians who are longing for that vacation feeling during these unprecedented times of restricted travel internationally and domestically,” said Chantal Suthons, director of marketing and communications at Niagara Falls Tourism.

David Brown