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New media spawns new marketing initiatives

Company strategies to build new markets include hiring bloggers
Jaeger Mah lived at Vancouver International Airport for 80 consecutive days last year and helped the airport generate publicity from the stunt

Jaeger Mah’s experience living at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) for 80 days last year and blogging about his experience provides a lesson for how business owners can get the biggest bang for their marketing buck.

YVR paid Mah $4,000 that he had to spend at airport merchants and $15,000 in salary.

Ever since Tourism Queensland ran a competition in 2009 in which it agreed to pay the winning blogger $131,000 to live on Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef for six months, companies have been increasingly hiring bloggers to generate media buzz and raise awareness of their products and services – particularly among younger adults.

Cathay Pacific last summer provided Toronto’s Michael Corey with free flights for 80 days on the condition that he blog and tell stories about his adventures.

Tourism Richmond plans to announce later this month which blogger it has chosen to pay $50,000 plus an undetermined daily stipend to live in Richmond for one year and eat at 365 different local restaurants.

“Part of why our project was so cost effective was the fact that we had so many partners,” Vancouver International Airport Authority (YVR) director of communications Rebecca Catley told Business in Vancouver. “The Fairmont Vancouver Airport provided our blogger with his room.”

YVR paid Edelman Canada to help them conceive the idea of having a blogger live at the airport for 80 days.

Other costs in what turned out to be a $250,000 project included building blog and Facebook theme pages, buying video equipment for the blogger, vetting contestants and providing Mah’s compensation.

“When you think about doing a major advertising or public relations campaign, $250,000 is not a huge amount,” Catley said. “We got coverage from BBC, MSNBC and CNN.”

Many of YVR’s 400-plus merchants provided Mah with free services, knowing that this would encourage him to file positive tweets or post photos and thoughts about their products and services on Facebook.

Mah has since founded Punchline Video Productions and said he recently landed a contract from a major airline to make videos.

Catley believes YVR achieved a return on investment based on a survey it conducted after the August 17 through November 4 promotion had ended.

YVR’s poll showed that the project helped increase Vancouverites’ awareness of how many services are available at the airport.

Catley said the airport authority’s reputation as being a good corporate citizen also increased.

YVR owns all of Mah’s videos and has used some of them on the airport’s blog and as part of a school program that YVR operates for elementary school children.

Tourism Richmond executives watched YVR’s contest with a keen eye.

They were also aware of Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC) studies that show a post-Olympics increase in the number of visitors who come to B.C. primarily for culinary experiences.

Tourism Richmond director of communications Michelle Dunn told BIV that the marketing campaign uses food as the hook. The blogger will also interact in the community and take part in festivals, thereby highlighting many non-food activities that take place in Richmond.

“If we are strategic in our markets and we know where our visitors are coming from, we can ensure that those communities are engaged with this blogger,” Tourism Richmond director of communications Michelle Dunn told BIV. “Those people will then learn about the blogger, see the experiences, read about the foods and find out about a hilarious fisherman that the blogger might meet at the wharf at Steveston.”

About 73% of Tourism Richmond’s $4 million budget comes from the hotel tax. Membership dues from restaurants, hotels and other businesses contribute the rest.

Dunn said the blogger will be expected to post at least one entry each day, although the amount of time spent blogging daily will vary.

“It will be 365 consecutive days, so we have to cut them some slack,” Dunn said. “What is not negotiable is that they have to visit 365 separate restaurants.” •