The accessibility of social media is its greatest feature and its greatest deterrent—it shrinks the world to a point where you can reach everyone and escape from no one.
Local companies like Hootsuite and Fanbase have prospered by jailbreaking the marketing potential of social media. Contiki is a member of The Travel Corporation, a coagulation of 25 different travel companies from around the world. The social media success of Contiki was celebrated on Thursday at Vancouver’s Cibo restaurant with an event to hail The #NoRegrets Adventure Challenge.
The campaign takes YouTube viewers on a tour around the world with their travel vloggers. In each video is a trivia question, which counts as an entry into a sweepstakes to win a three week European adventure tour for two.
Brad Ford has been the President of Contiki for three years as of March. With multiple piercings and a black-and-grey ensemble, he looks every part the 21st century businessman.
“When I took on the brand, I took on an incredible brand, with an incredible reputation, that needed to take a huge step forward into the digital age,” he told Techvibes. “Our website was just beginning to be redeveloped; we didn’t have the sort of social media reach and platforms. We didn’t have our Shout! app, we didn’t really have the kind of reach and communication for the digital native. Which is really what comprises our demographic. Coming into this, we knew we had an incredible product, amazing operations, and we overdeliver when it comes to an incredible experience. But somehow our conversation with our passengers, our customers—there was a disconnect.”
“We needed to listen and develop platforms that spoke to them,” he said.
Contiki, as a provider of communal adventure experiences, is poised to flourish in the social media age. Brad knows it; every sentence out of his mouth is said with relish.
“If you post a question on Facebook, or Twitter, or a blog, you’re gonna have people around the world who know you through social media,” he explained. “They are going to weigh and help you make your life choices for you, they have no problem giving you an opinion. The 18 to 35 demographic will ask about going to, say, Switzerland, and they’ll get global feedback. I really believe that formal education is limiting, because you have what the textbooks tell you, but when you travel and choose to experience things for yourself, there’s a gravitas that gives you confidence, an appreciation for world culture, and for how you fit into everything.”
“It’s an incredible thing,” he added. “I want more young Canadians to choose to travel.”
So do the young YouTube celebrities who were the guests of honour that night. Nadine Sykora of “Hey Nadine!” was the picture of happiness. When she was a computer science student at the University of Victoria, she didn’t have the time to make an established club the outlet for her comedy—a video could be made whenever. When she decided to travel, she realized a video that could be made wherever.
She was invited on a Contiki media tour, and has never looked back. Now that she’s grounded, she’s doing other video work to great aplomb—she wasn’t named the 2011 Canadian Top Social Media Maven by the Digi Awards for nothing. The opening video of the campaign features her in the Swiss Alps.
The night highlighted the social media vloggers to the utmost: time was taken to sing happy birthday to Ryker, a member of the SundayFundayz travelling crew. The crew’s normal antics were on full display. A camera prop which shot silly string saw a lot of action before the night was done. All were given the floor to celebrate not only the ways in which Contiki has helped them succeed, but how travel has helped them succeed.
And Brad Ford sees social media as just-cleared-for-takeoff. He’s got one word for how technology looks to him in 2013.
“Limitless,” he says. “Absolutely limitless. You can choose to film every moment of your life. It’s incredible, the kind of virility there is to that. People want to see what you’re doing, they’re interested in characters, and people Just Like Them that they can relate to. For YouTubers, it’s about being a celebrity for doing everyday things. The peer to peer exchange of energy and entertainment—that’s the future of advertising.”
Whether or not the #NoRegrets Adventure Challenge is the future of Contiki is yet to be seen. #NoRegrets, as a hashtag, has its downsides. As of the completion of this article, a very recent tweet with that tag involves the poster calling a baby an idiot.
But a tag did have to be chosen—you only live once, after all.