When VisitNorway challenged several agencies to come up with a big idea for a summer campaign, one pitch stood out right away.
“We all laughed out loud when we saw the presentation,” says Beate Gran, Digital Media Manager for VisitNorway New York. “It was something that we all really felt immediately – we all had the same gut feeling.”
The pitch? #SheepWithAView – a chance to explore Norway through the eyes of the country’s sheep.
The pitch by creative agency mr.h honed in on a quirky phenomenon in Norwegian culture. Every year, millions of sheep are released to explore Norway’s stunning landscapes and exercise their “right to roam,” or “allemannsretten.” #SheepWithAView would take audiences along for the journey, following the adventures of four sheep from different parts of Norway through stunning short videos (note, 67.72% of sales and marketing professionals in hospitality and travel say video’s importance is growing).
Beate and her team knew the campaign could resonate with anyone because of the simple, pure humor behind it.
“And it was that emotion, if we feel this way, imagine our users,” she explains. “We didn’t lose that from concept to execution.”
Sure enough, the campaign became a viral sensation, reaching 64 million people. According to tracking data from mr.h, audience sentiment was 98.8% positive. And while it’s too early to say if the campaign influenced a rush of travel, it’s clear #SheepWithAView showcased Norway successfully and gave audiences a different view of the destination.
The Making of #SheepWithAView: Photo and Video Production
The #SheepWithAView creative team chose four sheep from different regions of Norway to highlight during the campaign.
“Each had a distinct personality and a name,” says Beate, “giving that sheep a character that culturally is kind of typical for that region.”
The team didn’t work with actors – sheep or human. Instead, they interviewed real farmers and filmed their sheep to create true-to-life stories, which also came with true-to-life challenges.
“It was really interesting to work on because we had to take into account when are the sheep grazing, etc,” says Beate.
The team produced a hero piece of content – a short video – for each sheep, Frida, Erik, Kari and Lars. Meet Frida in this video:
The video establishes Frida’s character with stunning landscape b-roll and a voiceover from her owner:
This freedom to explore is loved by everyone, especially Frida. Frida can’t get enough of a good fjord view. She’s also a massive music fan.
These hero videos pave the way for more photos and videos that work together to build a story about each sheep and the regions they represent. The stories incorporate tie ins from outdoor adventures to music to food.
As they created this extensive collection of visual assets for the campaign, the creative team also documented the production process. This behind the scenes video adds a new angle (one that people were bound to be curious about) and reinforces the authenticity of the campaign:
Distribution: Sharing #SheepWithAView on Social Media
The Innovation Norway team promoted the campaign on Instagram and Facebook, and consistently drove viewers to one #SheepWithAView landing page. The team has a number of social media channels but focused in on these two for the campaign.
“You just have to focus your efforts on the channels where you get the most engagement and where you know your audience engages,” says Beate.
12 VisitNorway countries participated in the campaign, and each one had its own budget. Some teams invested in paid ads, but you might be surprised to learn that this was a fairly low-budget project.
“Apart from the production, it wasn’t a big budget campaign,” says Beate. “It was built to really be an organic campaign and the goal was to create as much buzz as possible in a different way.”
The team shared compelling, colorful photos and videos with catchy, personality-packed captions across platforms in hopes that the content would be engaging and shareable.
Beate’s team in the U.S. ran one organic post every other day and one paid post a week on Facebook.
“Our focus was in large part the videos to make sure that they went viral and to make sure as many people saw them as possible,” she explains.
The #SheepWithAView posts generated high levels of engagement, and comments and shares showed that people were really connecting with each sheep. Comments on the photo above range from “She’s listening to SIRENIA a NORWEGIAN GREAT band!!” to “She knows my heart.”
“This really made people stop people in their tracks,” says Beate. “It takes so much to be disruptive on Facebook these days and I think this really did that.”
“Growing that Instagram account was really important,” says Beate. “We had to have one common goal.”
For the first four weeks of the campaign, they shared a new post every day on the @sheepwithaview Instagram. The account quickly gained nearly 15 thousand followers. Soon, people started asking for more pictures and requesting content for certain sheep.
“People really started to connect and you would have comments where people would say, ‘Oh, I love Frida, she’s my favorite,’” says Beate.
While the story of each sheep really pulled people, Photoshopped pictures of sheep taking in a gorgeous view – a funny, even more light-hearted aspect of the campaign – also became a hit with audiences.
The Landing Page
The #SheepWithAView landing page provided one centralized place to direct traffic from social media. It hosts all of the campaign’s hero content, including the intro video, the four sheep profile videos and the behind the scenes video.
The page also features audiences into VisitNorway’s evergreen content, which is a great way to repurpose existing assets. Once audiences are hooked by the sheep, they are steered toward content that might encourage them to book a trip.
If you click on Frida’s icon on the landing page’s interactive map, you’re redirected to a new landing page with Frida’s video and links to stories about her home in Fjord Norway. Now that the video has piqued your interest, you can further explore the region where Frida lives. The page includes headlines about fjord trips for kids, hiking adventures and the region’s scenic railway.
A headline near the bottom of the page drives the point home: “You don’t have to be a sheep to enjoy all the things Fjord Norway has to offer.”
Did it work? Data shows visitors not only watched the videos, but also took the time to explore the landing page.
“The time spent on the landing page was very high,” says Beate.
Roll Out: Content Calendar + Image Bank
The team used a content calendar and a shared image bank to keep everyone on the same page during the campaign.
Rather than launching everything at once, the team introduced the sheep one by one. All of the participating countries presented new sheep at the same time and customized posts in between.
The team worked for four months to produce and plan out the campaign before the June 25 launch, building out a framework and laying out the whole story ahead of time. They had a plan for images, hashtags and where they would drive traffic.
A centralized collection of photos, videos and suggested captions played a key role in the roll out.
“You have to have all your little bites and photos – everything laid out and then it’s just very easy,” says Beate. “When you have 14 different project managers, you need to be organized and have one place where you can go to get the photos.”
Influencers and Unexpected Partners
The team ran a press release and reached out to bloggers and influencers during the campaign launch.
“We actually invited an influencer from each of the participating countries to travel to the destinations, and they ran their own outreach during the campaign, talking about #SheepWithAView and sharing to their networks,” says Beate. “It really helped us with engagement and provided great content!”
As #SheepWithAView’s following grew, some unexpected partners helped VisitNorway push the campaign. Other destinations started engaging on social media, making jokes and joining in on the fun.
“It was a compliment to see that other destinations spotted an opportunity to jump on the bandwagon,” says Beate.
ROI: #SheepWithAView by the Numbers
#SheepWithAView racked up 87 million impressions and a million engagements on social media between June 25 and August 13. The campaign reached 64 million users across demographics, ranging from seniors and families to a newer audience for Norway, millennials. Across the board, feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” says Beate. “Hopefully we reached new travelers who might be inspired to go based on us using humor and seeing the beautiful backgrounds.”
What was the key to the campaign’s success? Beate points to humor. The content was cute and playful, triggering an emotional response and motivating people to engage and share. #SheepWithAView created a genuine connection with the audience – the result of a quirky concept that was purely Norway.
“Sometimes you have to go out on a limb and find that concept,” says Beate. “I think that the most disruptive campaigns are the ones that are really thinking different and you have to take a risk.”
Perhaps it all comes back to “allemannsretten” – the best way to produce a viral campaign is to give your creative team the freedom to roam.