Accessibility/Mobile Features
Skip Navigation
Editorial News
Classified Sites


WestJet brand soars thanks to viral video hit

Ad or not, stunt a success for airline

Marketing experts say WestJet's holiday gift-giving scheme was a well-planned and well-executed campaign.

SCREEN GRAB Enlarge Image

Marketing experts say WestJet's holiday gift-giving scheme was a well-planned and well-executed campaign.

TORONTO -- While WestJet insists its holiday gift-giving stunt that spawned a viral video wasn't intended to be a commercial in disguise, marketing experts say the Canadian airline's brand is getting an invaluable boost as the YouTube hit count continues to surge.

In the video, which surpassed 15 million views on Thursday, the airline hatches an elaborate holiday surprise for more than 250 travellers heading to Calgary on flights from Toronto and Hamilton.

WestJet customers are seen stumbling upon a video kiosk that connects them with a blue-suited Santa Claus, who asks what they'd like for Christmas. A family asks for a big TV, a boy wants a tablet and one man asks for socks and underwear -- which he'll come to regret.

WestJet staff then scramble to buy the gifts to fill those requests, which are wrapped and delivered via a luggage carousel in Calgary. The shocked reaction of the passengers as they realize what WestJet has done is a feel-good tearjerker.

"It was a really, really well-thought-out, well-executed experiential campaign that they did a very good job of documenting so they could share the results with whoever wanted to see it," says Mitch Joel, president of the digital marketing agency Twist Image. "They pulled it off in stunning fashion."

In a blog post, WestJet said it hoped the video would generate 200,000 views, at which point it would donate free flights to a needy family. A year earlier, another holiday video -- based around a song-and-dance flash mob that stunned tired travellers waiting for a red-eye flight out of Calgary -- racked up 500,000 views, which the company considered a great success.

So you can imagine the marketing team's excitement when this year's holiday video hit one million views on its second day online. The video's popularity is still surging, with no sign of slowing down.

" 'Tis the season, right? When you do something like that where there's surprise and delight it gets amplified and magnified," says Joel.

While the conventional wisdom of online video suggests viewers lose interest after a minute or two, WestJet's campaign runs more than five minutes long, which is a very long time for consumers to be exposed to the brand.

"The whole win of this is people are willingly spending five to six minutes with WestJet," says Joel.

"They're actively looking at it because someone told them to check it out. And that is a high level of advertising that most brands could only hope to achieve around the holiday season."

Marketing professor David Soberman says it's also a great campaign because it reinforces the image WestJet has tried to portray without being overly obvious about it.

"It makes WestJet stand out as a company that goes outside of the norm to take care of its customers," says Soberman, the Canadian national chair of strategic marketing with the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management.

"It's saying to people in an indirect way, 'We're still the WestJet you've always known. We care about you, we're getting bigger, but we're not changing the way we treat our customers.' So in that way it's a very clever manoeuvre."

Joel agrees the campaign seems like it might have been created to drive home the company's brand.

"Perhaps their whole thing was... a revival of the true brand sentiment of what WestJet is in a world where (Toronto-based) Porter has very much taken on a friendly 'we're here for you' type of brand as well," he says.

"Whatever this cost, they did a great job of bringing more awareness to the WestJet brand in a very crowded marketplace in Canada."

-- The Canadian Press


  • Rate this Rate This Star Icon
  • This article is currently rated an average of 5 out of 5 (1 votes).
  • We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high. If you thought it was well written, do the same. If it doesn’t meet your standards, mark it accordingly.

    You can also register and/or login to the site and join the conversation by leaving a comment.

    Rate it yourself by rolling over the stars and clicking when you reach your desired rating. We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high.

Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 1 Commentscomment icon

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

This was brilliant and marvelous!


Post Your Commentcomment icon

  • You have characters left

The Brandon Sun does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. Comments are moderated before publication. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.


Make text: Larger | Smaller

Brandon Sun Business Directory
Submit a Random Act of Kindness
Why Not Minot?
Welcome to Winnipeg

Social Media