Thanks to some very special friends for bringing Canada’s WestJet viral video campaign to my attention.  If you’re not one of the 33 million+ who have already viewed this video, it’s well worth 5 minutes of your time, for the entertainment value alone, not to mention the campaign’s value as a marketing/PR/social case study in excellence.

This is pure marketing genius, putting social media to work in a way that no other medium could communicate with quite the same punch.  WestJet granted Christmas wishes to 250 passengers in real-time.  While many airlines can’t do much more than serve peanuts and soda, Team WestJet shopped, wrapped, and delivered, during the flight, much to the surprise of the incoming passengers.  Unbelievable!

There was no big advertising budget, yet the message was seen by millions, and we’re talking about it around the world.  Plus, WestJet used authentic, real-time emotions to sell a special and most timely story.  WestJet reports that they are working with Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada to select a needy family to receive free flights.  So you may be thinking…well, they have a huge Twitter following, so they got the word out there.  Nope, @WestJet has 270,000+ followers, a respectable following, but 0.008% of the audience they garnered with this video.

And as Forbes acknowleges, producing the video and funding the gifts wasn’t free, but all done at a fraction of the cost of a traditional advertising spot and media buy.

And, as Jena McGregor reported in The Washington Post, there was a solid internal PR benefit as well.  McGregor writes, “It also succeeded on another level: It got employees in on the act. Rather than outsourcing a holiday spot to an ad agency or involving few people who work for the airline, the company brought in more than 150 WestJet workers, who hurriedly shopped for, wrapped and delivered the gifts that passengers had ‘asked’ Santa for while they were in the air. Employees got to delight and surprise customers in a way no on-time flight or extra bag of peanuts ever quite would. The hope, surely, is that they’ll want to have that experience again and again.”

Anyone out there who still doesn’t believe in social/viral marketing, give me a shout!  Hats off not only to studiom for creating the video, but to WestJet for leading their blog post about it by thanking their agency.  Now THAT is gratitude!

…And my sincere apologies to the guy who asked for socks and underwear!

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