Helping tourists find icebergs near Newfoundland and Labrador

Target used real-time data and user content to address a common visitor pain point.

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When vacationers make the long trip to Newfoundland and Labrador, they don’t just want to see the candy-coloured houses in St. John’s or the classic red-and-white lighthouse in Ferryland. They also want to glimpse the “frosty giants” that visit its coastline every year.

Like Great Big Sea’s former lead singer, Alan Doyle, the challenge with icebergs is they don’t sit still for long, so a sighting is not guaranteed, which can leave travellers disappointed. So Target, the longtime AOR for Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism, used current technology to dramatically increase the chances that visitors will see an iceberg up close and personal. And just as we enter this year’s “iceberg season” (which runs from April until June), the site has been recognized for its user experience at the Adrian Awards, which benchmark advertising excellence in the travel and tourism industry, also picking up Platinum and Gold for best in class digital marketing.

“Visitors who come to Newfoundland aren’t looking for some sort of a manufactured tourism experience, they want to travel the road that’s less travelled… and one of the attractions for those types of travelers is icebergs,” says Noel O’Dea, director of strategic and creative planning at Target, from his office in St. John’s.

“If you go to New York City, you know where the Statue of Liberty is located and it’s going to be there 365 days a year and it doesn’t move around, but if you’re interested in the experience of seeing this 10,000-year-old ice, it is an elusive target because it’s drifting along 30,000 kilometres of coastline.”

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The resulting mobile-first IceBergFinder.com website was launched last year and uses a responsive layout that features an interactive map with the ability to locate icebergs drifting along the coastline in real-time. Icebergs are plotted on the map using real-time data collected by the European Space Agency and NASA, as well as from users and tourism officers who can upload images to the site. The site also provides Google Map directions and enables photo sharing.

The “Finding Giants” campaign promoted the website and map by enlisting six local influencers, as well as paid display ads targeting people who were already interested in visiting the province.. All of this promotion got people talking, with users posting positive reactions on social media as well as mainstream media, including CBC and BBC, writing positive stories about the useful site.

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Last summer, visitors tracked over 500 icebergs and uploaded hundreds of photos to the site, with map being interacted with nearly 500,000 times. Meanwhile, tourism operators received 5,000 new referrals from potential customers. The site – which had previously been a more technical tool to track icebergs for professionals and enthusiasts – saw a 52% year-over-year increase in time spent on the site, visitation was up 60% and page views rose 80% following the more responsive, tourist-focused redesign.

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The website, and photos of the icebergs, are visually stunning, but ultimately the site has function at its core so that visitors to the picturesque province can worship near an iceberg IRL (then post a photo of it on social media, of course). For example. there is currently a post of an iceberg spotted mere days ago that is of medium size, with a “dry dock” shape that is reminiscent of a very large letter “U,” estimated to between 50- to 150-feet in height. The sighting was posted by the Deer Lake Visitor Information Centre and has a link visitors can click on to learn more about the area where the iceberg was spotted.

“If you want to see one and get close to one from the land then you need to be able to locate it and be able to get there so the purpose of IceBergFinder.com was to have a high utility and be very helpful to travelers who are keenly interested in these 10,000-year-old cathedrals of ice,” explains O’Dea.