Ottawa promotes its cultural cachet with ‘Unofficial Museums’

Who: Ottawa Tourism, with Rethink for strategy and creative, Nova Film for production (Charles Burroughs directing); Studio Élément and Circonflex for post-production.

What: “Unofficial Museums,” a campaign conveying “museum” status on 76 potential tourist destinations throughout the capital region, ranging from attractions to restaurants, bars and events. It’s designed to complement “Here to Inspire,” a broad-based marketing platform that debuted earlier this year.

When & Where: The national campaign launched in mid-June and will run through late September across multi-format video (with a 90-second anchor spot and two 15s), supported by display, social, print, radio and influencer marketing. There’s also a dedicated section on the Ottawa Tourism website, while participating businesses are being encouraged to promote their “museum” status on social, and are being given collateral material such as window decals etc.

Why: “This is probably the biggest leisure campaign we’ve even done,” said Glenn Duncan, Ottawa Tourism’s senior vice-president and chief marketing officer. “We know that business travel and other elements of the industry are going to be slow to recover [from the pandemic], so we’ve gone all-in on leisure [travel], because that’s really where we’re going to see the movement over the next little while [that will] allow Ottawa Tourism to recover the way we want to.”

Duncan said that the marketing idea for 2022 was to promote the culture that is part of the capital city’s DNA, but extending the idea beyond known cultural institutions like the Canadian Museum of History or the National Arts Centre. “There’s really a whole bunch of things to do here outside the norm of what draws people here,” he said. “It’s meant to be an intentionally cheeky campaign.”

How: The campaign is anchored by a 90-second video that begins by highlighting many of Ottawa’s foremost cultural institutions, before indicating that culture exists in myriad places around the city. “In a city where culture is everything, isn’t everything a museum,” says the accompanying voiceover, before introducing the other “museums” that comprise the city’s cultural fabric.

The video goes on to identify various business as museums. The Record Centre Too, for example, is now “the unofficial museum of crate digging,” while the Tavern on the Falls becomes “the unofficial museum of airplane mode” and Great Canadian Bungee the “unofficial museum of free falling.”

Duncan said that the 76 number was completely arbitrary and could likely grow beyond this year. “We started throwing things on a whiteboard, and we came up with a few hundred [places] that we felt were worth at least exploring,” he said. “We do believe this is going to grow and has legs to go beyond 2022.”

And we quote: “We’re pretty strong with families, but we do think this is going to catch the eye of a younger demographic, which is intentional. We also think it’s going to catch the eye of adventure travellers willing to go off the beaten path a little more. We’re trying to be a little more bold in our marketing, and this is evidence of that.” — Glenn Duncan, senior vice-president and chief marketing officer, Ottawa Tourism

Chris Powell