Embracing Newfoundland and Labrador’s tall tales

Target's latest tourism ad for the province puts the emphasis on its people and the stories they have to tell.

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By Chris Lombardo

Many are familiar with the verse “a tangled web we weave,” but there’s no deceiving here. “A Tangled Tale,” ad agency Target’s latest tourism campaign for Newfoundland and Labrador, is another attempt to showcase the region’s allure, this time through the stories of locals.

Released on Jan. 18, the ad’s theme is storytelling and features a rhyming voiceover to accompany landscapes of poetic beauty. The campaign focuses on engaging not just with place, but with people. The province is a wellspring of stories – residents are known to spin the occasional yarn, and there’s a rich backstory of early Indigenous and Viking settlements.

Christopher Mitchelmore, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation says, “the concept of storytelling is our best one yet.”

“Storytelling is part of our DNA,” he says, “We sell giving people a chance to discover an unexpectedly different place.” This, he hopes, will leave visitors with their own authentic experiences, and their own tales to tell.

“A Tangled Tale” is scheduled to run for 15 weeks, with ads ranging from 15 to 90 seconds long. Other campaign elements include national and regional print ads, videos on Air Canada’s inflight entertainment system, digital video, online display, plus activity on social and digital media channels.

Every year, Newfoundland Tourism’s goal is an integrated campaign that brings Canada’s easternmost province to life. “Each new creative concept is about an evolution of Newfoundland and Labrador’s brand positioning and our personality,” says Mitchelmore.

The “Colours” campaign in 2016 highlighted bright captivating images found in the province, and it was the first time the tourism board thematically drew upon the province’s bounty of musical tradition. The “Conductor” campaign last year extended the musical motif, imagining the audience as the leader of a travel orchestra. This time, the focus is on the residents themselves: “it’s not just place, but a uniqueness of people.”

And visitors are coming from (farther) away.

The minister notes an uptick in U.S., U.K. and German visitors, though Canada and New York remain its bread and butter. The smash Broadway musical Come From Away, which details how residents of the town of Gander opened their  homes to stranded travellers following the September 11 attack, sold out its Dublin run. The production is moving on to London’s West End stage and then Australia, which is also helping to carry the message across time zones.

“Distance and uniqueness have always been a selling point,” says Mitchelmore, who says in the past that they’ve emphasized “that you’re as far away from Disneyland as you’d expect.” But this campaign, with its focus on friendliness, perhaps feels a bit closer to home.

And the work seems to be paying off. The minister notes that visitor spending increased from $790 million to $1.2 billion in a decade. Michelmore reports that Deer Lake Airport had its busiest August in history, and that Gander is getting 20% increases in year-over-year American tourist traffic.