Newfoundland brings its operators to life

Who: Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism, with Target for strategy, creative and media; Airfoil Media for production (directed by Ryan Patrick).

What: “The Welcome Desk,” a tourism campaign which plays off the fact that for years Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism ads have concluded by inviting viewers to call Seamus—or Maggie, or Joan—toll-free to start planning their trip. This campaign brings those characters to life in a charming, low-key way.

When & Where: It launched today (Feb. 27) and runs through July 2. It includes a 30-second launch spot running as pre-roll and on social channels, which is being complemented by nine 15-second spots and online display.

Why: The invitation for consumers to call Seamus or Maggie has been a staple in Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism’s TV advertising for more than 15 years, originally created as a way of emphasizing the province’s friendly and welcoming nature.

It’s difficult to conclusively prove they invented the idea of giving names to the people who work the toll-free phone line, said Target creative director TJ Arch. “But I do think we have a good claim of ownership after doing it for so many years.”

The campaign is a lower-funnel effort, specifically intended to appeal to people who are familiar with the brand and are seeking specific trip-planning information.

“Most of the time [the information] is super-dry, but we don’t do anything dry,” said Arch. “We’re just having a little bit of fun with these trip-planning questions, giving people important information that they need when they get to that part of the journey, but doing it in a way that only Newfoundland and Labrador would—with some charm and wit,” he said.

“I very much hesitate to say [online] is the way we’re going, because it’s not,” he added. “I love the fact that we’re the anti- six-second [advertising] brand, but it doesn’t mean we can ignore the way the world goes. We need to fill that gap too.”

How: Whether it’s on TV or in print, much of Target’s work with Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism over the years has put the province’s rugged natural beauty front and centre. And while its oceans, cliffs and charming seaside villages are still on display in the latest campaign, it takes a more character-driven approach by bringing the characters who staff its “Welcome Desk” to life.

The 30-second launch spot features Seamus sitting behind a desk on a small boat. He stresses that the people on the other end of the toll-free numbers are “real Newfoundlanders and Labradorians ready to answer all your questions.” The spot continues by showing Maggie and Joan sitting behind their  desks amid the province’s natural beauty. “This is the Newfoundland and Labrador welcome desk. And operators are standing by,” he says.

The 15-second spots feature Seamus, Maggie and Joan answering common questions about travelling to the province—including the age of the icebergs in Iceberg Alley, whale watching, ferry access and proper attire—with gentle humour. Each spot opens and closes with a segment of the song from last year’s “Leave No Sung Unsung” TV spot, and ends with a super driving viewers to, which provides visitors with booking details, itineraries, a map, etc.

And we quote: “The personal touch at the end of Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism ads is exactly the personality of the brand,” said Arch. “Now, with the help of Maggie, Seamus, and Joan, we can answer pragmatic trip-planning questions in the colourful way you’d expect from this province.”

Chris Powell