VisitBritain has high hopes for “You’re Invited” strategy

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VisitBritain (VB) has started implementing its four year marketing strategy to drive up visitor numbers and visitor spends in the UK with a celebrity-led campaign.

The launch comes after a rapid restructure of the tourist body to better meet the challenges of a “fiercely competitive” marketplace, as it is described by chief executive Sandie Dawe.

Integral to the new strategy is working closely with commercial partners to develop marketing funds and identify the right media channels.

The big concept of the “You’re Invited” initiative kicked off with the unveiling of five celebrity ambassadors, all of whom have recorded a short film extolling the attraction of different aspects of Britain, this week. See the films here.

For instance, Dame Judi Dench waxes lyrical on the nation’s heritage, Hever Castle and stately homes while Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel talks about the energy and multicultural fascination at the heart of London and Jamie Oliver talks about food and off-the-beaten track delights. Other ambassadors, including actor Matt Smith, who plays Dr Who, will come on-board.

The films will sit on the VisitBritain website and on other websites, such as Youtube. The clips have been edited into 60 second and 30 second ads that will be used in a variety of ways to drive traffic to the site.

The celebrity activity is just phase one of a three-pronged plan for this year that will also see commercial partners such as American Express, Hilton Hotels, British Airways, Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum and DFDS Seaways, launch their own “invitation” to potential visitors. The final invite will come from the people of Britain themselves in the autumn, details are to come but social media is likely to be to the fore.

The organisation makes no bones about the fact that the majority of its marketing spend will be deployed on digital channels and that social media, including Facebook and Twitter, is playing a huge part.

A key media partnership for the “You’re Invited” campaign is the tie-up with BBC Worldwide covering international TV and digital platforms. The ad will be seen on BBC World News in Europe and on BBC America.

VB will also be the first advertising partner on the soon-to-launch BBC Worldwide global iPlayer. The ad will appear as a pre-roll spot on the service, which will be available as an app for the Apple iPad.

Carolyn Gibson, senior vice president of international sales at BBC Worldwide, points out that the network delivers tremendous scale across the globe of an educated audience – with 230m users per week of the news service alone – and they already have exposure to Britain via contact with the BBC brand.

She points out that Dr Who is a vital BBC property for the United States and receiving a big promotional push, so the sign up of Smith as a VB ambassador is a coup.

This year’s activity highlights the two big events in Britain in the next 12 months: the queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympics. However, the campaign is devoted to creating awareness of Britain as a viable destination for 2013 and beyond rather than the unnecessary task of trying to sell more hotel beds around the Olympics.

In essence, the aim is to get on the radar for people in the target markets of the US, near-Europe and the BRIC countries, with the latter becoming more important in future years as their citizens become more interested in and able to fund travel.

The push for conversion of viewers and those engaging with social media to a firm booking to visit will come later in the 2012. The body wants to increase tourism numbers by 4 million over the next four years and add an extra £2bn to visitor spend in the UK.

Some of the current commercial partners have signed up for year one of the strategy and others for longer. Expect to see more come on-board if VB can persuade the path it is taking is the right one for tourism growth.

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