Why Storyline went 360 for Travel Alberta

Who: Travel Alberta with Storyline (part of Initiative), and National Geographic as the media partner.

What: “Wide Open Spaces,” a two-part video series to attract visitors back to Alberta after a tough year of reduced tourism during the pandemic.

When & Where: The two 360-degree videos went up on consecutive weeks (July 17 and 24) on National Geographic’s YouTube channel and its travel Facebook page. That means they are viewable to a global audience, while an additional digital buy from Travel Alberta is amplifying the video across the usual digital platforms and channels.

What’s Storyline? “We specialize in custom branded content development and distribution with publishers and media owners,” said Initiative’s head of content, Chris Gairdner. “We don’t shoot or produce anything in house—what we do best is develop original ideas and then bring together the right partners or voices to give those stories life.”

Why: Initiative, which is the AOR for Travel Alberta, had been briefed on a full summer travel campaign to bring visitors back to the province after travel was difficult or even impossible for much of 2020. That includes lots of stunning imagery across a full multi-media campaign featuring TV, digital, and out of home.

“We put our heads together to think of what else could we do,” said Gairdner. “How do we give our audience a taste of what it can offer, and that’s how we arrived at 360 video content as an opportunity that offered a level of immersion and interactivity that you’re not going to get through anything else.”

How: The two videos, shot earlier this year, follow National Geographic photographer Kahli April on hikes through two picturesque Alberta parks. Viewers can scroll in all directions to see everything April sees, all in ultra-high 8K resolution, as she narrates her walk.

“The nice thing about the way 360 video has evolved is now you can engage with it without requiring a headset,” said Gairdner. “You can just go on YouTube and play around with it.” There was also increased interest in 360-degree video during the pandemic, as people sought out my immersive virtual travel experiences, he said.

“It felt like a really nice way to immerse our audience in these breathtaking views,” he said. “I think brand content generally has to work extra hard if it’s going to break through, you need to try new things to attract attention.”

National Geographic had a lot of success with 360, but never worked with a brand globally on a project such as this, he added. “So it felt like a great opportunity.”

David Brown