Upgrade to Canada


The world’s second largest country by area, Canada attracts over 15 million visitors annually and boasts over 150 signature experiences through which tourists can enjoy the vast natural landscape, diverse culture and friendly locals. For these and many other reasons, Future Brand ranked Canada number one its Country Brand Index 2010 and 2011.

Its biggest competitor, Brand USA, boasts iconic destinations frequently featured in films and TV whilst also offering multiple routes and airlines at competitive prices. 

According to research, Canada matches the USA as “a place I would really enjoy visiting”, but scores worse (by 10%) when considering “value for money”. For these reasons, drop-off between consideration and purchase among long haul travellers is minimal for the USA whereas Canada’s decreases by almost 50%. 

To combat this, Canada features its ‘signature experiences’ within consumer campaign and trade communications. Experiences are married to itineraries, promoted by Tour Operator partners highlighting the value of visiting Canada.

Analysis of Canadian travellers found the ‘Free Spirit’ and ‘Cultural Explorer’ segments had the greatest propensity to visit, ranking Canada highest on their dream destinations.  However, cost meant Canada was frequently a “saved for later” adventure.

Further research revealed these segments to be top advocates of Canada, with over 90% socially promoting after visiting. This presented a huge opportunity to use those visitors’ stories to influence others thinking about going.

With the above in mind, The Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) needed to clearly demonstrate the rich diversity in culture and activities Canada has to offer, thus encouraging more travellers to visit the country.


Research shows Canada is considered a ‘dream destination’. The CTC’s aim was to leverage existing aspirations, overcoming the fear of cost to turn the dream into reality.

From CTC’s four markets, Germany and France were chosen, due to their higher ranking aspiration and for the potential to grow visitor numbers, versus the UK and Australia.  Unfortunately, the same applied to the USA so the prerequisite for CTC’s idea was for it to be uniquely applicable to Canada to avoid cannibalisation from the USA.

CTC’s first business objective was to increase bookings and consequently visitors to Canada, leading to visitors fulfilling their dreams and aspirations.

The second objective was to accentuate the magic and appeal of Canada by demonstrating its beauty and diversity and thus creating momentum for discussion, driving traffic and sharing on social and campaign sites.

The Commission’s daringly simple idea offered travellers the opportunity to ‘Upgrade to Canada’ by spontaneously swapping their run-of-the-mill holiday for a dream trip at the airport, dramatising their story by following them through video and social media.

Upgrading offered a strategic platform from which to explode the story-telling potential with myriad content suitable for distribution: from feel-good check-in surprises of free upgrades through to showcasing Canadian adventures including footage of white-water rafting.

Armed with iPhones and visited by film crews, the CFC’s Upgrader’s content was used to construct a social media programme sharing travellers’ experiences. 

Their stories were told through video units on Expedia.com (including its first-ever homepage video units) and amplified through behaviourally targeted reach using a DSP optimised in real time.

PR was ramped up in the last phase: Facebook was used for laser-targeted demographics and Twitter for conversation targeting and for gaining online editorial, adding credibility whilst enabling CFC to amplify its actions. 

Expedia’s integrated widget allowed visitors to immediately search for Canada itineraries.


By collaborating with a leading online travel agent, the CFC leveraged Expedia’s reputation to drive a positive reaction towards Canada. Utilising its extensive traveller insights, the 100% digital strategy took the following steps:

Firstly customers were upgraded at check-in thanks to an Expedia-partnered event set up at Lyon and Frankfurt airport check-in desks. Travellers were offered the opportunity to swap their holiday with a dream trip to Canada.

Secondly, “Upgrader’s” emotive reactions were recorded and posted onto social sites. Travellers went on and recorded their trips and shared experiences on campaign-specific social sites and Expedia.com, driving further discussions.

Finally, CFC managed to make Expedia become extensively used, supported by wider re-targeting efforts through behaviourally targeted reach campaigns. 

Content was deployed around social sites, PR kits and display banners driving traffic to the CTC website. Those landing on the promotional website from France and Germany could upgrade their own trips to Canada, with bookings made via the integrated Expedia widget.


The CFC had two clear objectives to accomplish; the first to convey Canada as a dream tourist destination creating momentum for discussion around social sites, the second to generate a greater demand and increase desire and bookings.

The first objective was achieved successfully with 1.3million views (Source: YouTube), 30% CFC’s initial goal.  

Visits to the campaign website exceeded 150,000 with an overwhelming amount via referral, with Facebook driving 87% and 93% of French and German site traffic, respectively.

Further PR interest was gained and social commentary increased 680% against the same period in 2011.

According to Expedia’s year-on-year sales figures, both markets (France and Germany) recorded an average growth of 9.2% in bookings. This was a result of an unprecedented 21.5% increase in visitors to Canada-related-content through the national versions of the portal.

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Canadian Tourism Commission
Brand Owner:
Canadian Tourism Commission
September - December 2012
Media Channel:

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