Twitter, Eh?


The use of the politeness marker “Eh” in the title is in no way meant to poke fun at Canadian speech patterns–no matter how off-centre or colourful they may be. As an American with some Canadian ancestry and a great appreciation for the country, I recognize their right to write their own grammar of the English language.

Music, Technology, and What’s for Sale

Most music for advertisements and public relations pieces is sourced from generic “buyout” CDs of music that can be used royalty-free (or royalties are managed through a central location). Some spots do have original music made for them, and others use popular songs as there soundtrack, but most rely on ready-made “ad” music. In this spot, I think they were looking for a “hi-tech” vibe , but the first 20 seconds almost have a suspenseful/creepy sound to me. More like robots ravaging the streets than computers peacefully…umm…computing.

The technology of the Twitter storefront is at the center of this spot, and the video does show the technology quite well. The vision is summed up by creative director Cosmo Campbell in an article for Adland.TV. “Bringing what’s happening online to the street, the live billboard is a streaming representation of Canada’s endless to-do list of destinations, cultural experiences and vacation packages. The digital storescapes are unexpected to passersby and the amount of content happening about Canada is also intriguing.

Cosmo is correct–the Twitter storefront is bustling with loads of real-time information, but what do the pictures and posts say?

“During my stay in Canada the trees in my yard grew so I couldn’t go out by the car, but I trimmed them quickly in therain. Fun :D”–One visible tweet on the screen.

(No…this picture wasn’t really posted with that Tweet)

What qualifies a tweet as being “about Canada?” Is there a system in place to determine what content gets shown on the street? I appreciate the new media norms of interactivity and openness, but I can’t help but wonder if using an open forum in this case is the best possible solution. After all, what holds people’s interest (after the intial “Holy Cow! A Live Twitter Wall”) is good content; and while the video may be promoting their Twitter storefront, the product they’re selling is not high-tech street marketing, it’s Canada.

The Human Element

The video poses the question of how to market Canada to busy Americans, but I couldn’t help but noticing that most of the busy Americans walked by without a second glance. The guy in the white shirt with the pony tail couldn’t seem to decide whether the display was safe to touch or not.Those who did stop and look were encouraged to interact by staff in blue shirts.

Here’s one potential downside that might arise–interacting with a huge display like this in a public place requires effort and a confidence that you won’t make a fool out of yourself trying to operate it. With the “blue shirts” present as well, I can’t help but wonder how many people chose not to interact for fear of being given a sales pitch (the bane of crowded streets in major cities).

The Final Word

Lest it should appear I’m being nit picky with our neighbors to the north, let me close on this note: I think that Travel Canada has done an outstanding job trying something that I’ve never seen done before. They are indeed helping to bridge the gap between the online and the street, and I congratulate them for stepping outside of the box.

In research for this post, I also perused Travel Canada’s website, Facebook and Twitter sites. The website was very well designed and helpful, and the Twitter and Facebook pages were quite active and well-updated.

The slogan “Keep Exploring” is a great fit for the organization. It applies to the millions of tourists who get to experience a wild, diverse, wonderful country first hand, and it applies to the staff of Travel Canada, who aren’t afraid to try new things. Sure, there are tweaks that could be made, but overall, a live Twitter wall was a great idea. And for what it’s worth–I’ll pay a friend to look after my landscaping the next time I go to Canada–gotta keep that car accessible!

Please chime in with your ideas on how to make the Twitter storefront marketing campaign even more successful!