December 19, 2013
When you are a child, there is an undeniable sense of magic to Christmas. From Santa’s jovial laugh to the presents magically appearing under the tree on Christmas morning, it is a fantastic experience that makes the holiday unlike any other. As people get older, the magic tends to fade because of the stress of life and the fact that their wallets fund this magic for everyone else. WestJet brought that feeling of magic to children and adults alike, and that’s what made its “Christmas Miracle” PR campaign so great.
Apparently, the nation agreed because WestJet aimed to get 200,000 YouTube views with the video; in reality, the video went on to accumulate more than 27 million views in one week.
The PR stunt wasn’t an easy undertaking for WestJet. The company had to develop a machine through which the customers waiting for their flights could talk to a digital Santa. Santa asked the customers what they wanted for Christmas and on the other side of the connection was a WestJet team that wrote down the list. That list was relayed to special teams that ran to the CrossIron Mills local shopping mall and Best Buy. Those teams bought all of the gifts that the customers asked for and improvised on some of the more farfetched ones (like buying a Ken doll for someone who asked for a husband).
WestJet did this stunt for two different flights and both were in the air for four hours, making the margin for error very small. After buying the gifts, the teams wrapped each one and wrote the recipients’ names on them. Then, as the passengers trickled in and waited to pick up their luggage, Santa arrived and the presents rolled down the conveyer belts. It was a truly magical experience and WestJet planned it perfectly. Better than that, due to well-placed cameramen and great editing, the entire event transferred seamlessly to video. This video immediately went viral and reminded us of the spirit of Christmas, even though we weren’t there.
The entire PR stunt required 175 WestJet employees to pull off. The teams ultimately wrapped 357 gifts. As expensive as this sounds, it really wasn’t. While Westjet has declined to give a price, the company did state that many gifts were discounted or donated by Best Buy and the other stores because they wanted to be a part of this magical experience. The airline tickets, which were some of the more expensive gifts given, had less hard costs for WestJet.
Planning is what made this PR stunt possible. Without reaching out to Best Buy, WestJet could have ended up spending much more money than it did. Without properly training its gift-buying staff, that portion of the stunt could have turned into a disaster, leaving people without the gifts they asked for. Without having the proper technology in place, the passengers couldn’t have relayed their requests to WestJet, or the experience might have never made it onto YouTube. This took months of planning and stressing, yet viewers never had to see that. WestJet never tooted its own horn and tried to make the viewers realize how hard it was to set that up.
WestJet could have made a commercial and bought advertising space. It could have just written “Merry Christmas” on its social media accounts. Instead, it planned a PR stunt so wonderful that we will never forget it. It lit up our hearts and made us feel like children on Christmas morning again, even if it was just for a few minutes. Isn’t that great?
What did you think of WestJet’s “Christmas Miracle” PR stunt? We’d love to read your opinion in the comments.
If you wonder what the power of PR can do for your company, feel free to contact us at Axia Public Relations. Viral campaigns like this can happen for any company, as long as the correct amount of planning takes place.
– Jason Mudd, APR, is CEO of Axia Public Relations. He is an Emmy-Award-winning accredited public relations practitioner, speaker, author and entrepreneur. His public relations portfolio includes work for established national and emerging brands such as American Airlines, Dave & Buster’s, Brightway Insurance, Florida Blue, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, It Works! Global, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Ray Charles and Verizon. Connect with Jason at @jasonmudd9 and Axia Public Relations at @axiapr. Be sure to tweet and share your thoughts below. We’ll read and respond to each of them.