Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1301, (23 - 29 June 2016)
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1301, (23 - 29 June 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Targeting tourism

The government contracted the J Walter Thompson Company to promote tourism to Egypt in October last year. Samia Fakhry talks to the company’s Cairo-based  business unit head Ahmed Abdel-Qader about what has been achieved so far

Al-Ahram Weekly

The J Walter Thompson Company (JWT) won a $68 million three-year contract to market Egypt abroad, beating three other companies, Saatchi & Saatchi, Y&R, and Memac Ogilvy. Launched in October 2015, its campaign involves the two-pronged strategy of an advertising campaign in 27 markets in both traditional and modern media, with a focus on electronic marketing, and a public-relations campaign in 19 markets to promote Egypt’s image abroad and promote tourist destinations.


What is JWT’s strategy to promote tourism to Egypt?

We were supposed to launch the marketing campaign in November 2015, but then there was the Russian jet crash in Sinai so we decided, in concert with former minister of tourism Hisham Zazou, to wait and see how the situation unfolded. We launched the domestic tourism campaign in December, and then Zazou decided to focus on Arab tourism, so we launched the Arab campaign.

We also adopted the hashtag #this_is_Egypt launched by a group of young people. They took photographs of places and traditions they thought reflected the beauty of Egypt. No money was spent on the campaign, as television channels and the press volunteered to promote the campaign about Egypt.

Some people said the hashtag was hijacked and trashy photographs were posted using it, but the result was generally positive, based on numbers from our digital analysis team which tracks social media, including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

The results were one billion hashtag mentions and 270,000 total posts. The impressions were 80 per cent positive, five per cent negative and 15 per cent neutral.


What are the main features of the Arab campaign?

We launched a campaign on the Saudi-owned MBC channel to cover Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Kuwait from December to January, this in parallel with using film spots and ads in outdoor malls. We then held a press conference in Saudi Arabia and were planning to have supporting advertising on social media, but that did not go through at the time because we didn’t receive the approval of the Tourism Promotion Authority.

We also worked to change Egypt’s image through modern methods like airing positive news of activities by the current and former tourism minister and launched those in Saudi Arabia. Other positive events were promoted for airing on global press outlets like CNN and the BBC, such as Zazou’s interview with British television during the World Travel Market in London in 2016, as well as the New Year celebrations at the Pyramids.

We also aired images of Egyptians expressing their grief for the victims of the terrorist attacks in France, as well as Russian victims, by projecting the two countries’ flags onto the Pyramids. There was a candlelight vigil held there as well, attended by the ambassadors of these states and the Egyptian tourism minister.

Photographs of this event were taken and sent to international audiovisual and print media and disseminated digitally through social media and websites. Regarding reports issued by the company assessing Egyptian airports after the Russian plane incident, a PR company affiliated to JWT has been liaising between the company and ministries and has released the findings to the world.

There has also been a focus on sporting events in Egypt broadcast through social media to send the message that Egypt is up and running and is not just about terrorism.

In February 2016, we launched the international campaign. It began in March after we agreed with the Tourism Promotion Authority that we would manage the social media pages. We have also placed TV ads of 30 to 45 seconds on CNN, National Geographic and Discovery.


One of the main criticisms of your company’s work is that it has used non-professional photographers and low-quality printing, leading to poor results at some tourism fairs.

This is not true. When we wanted to film the TV ads, we contracted an internationally known Egyptian director, Ali Ali, who did the Crunch ad. He won the Cannes Ad Prize and is the most expensive director in Egypt. We turn to experts in each field because in the end this is about Egypt’s image.

In the first ad targeting Egyptians domestically, we contracted three directors and three production companies to shoot the film used for #this_is_Egypt, and people commented on the film saying they didn’t believe that it was in Egypt and that Egypt had such beautiful places.

As for the print quality you mentioned, there are things we have power over and things the Tourism Promotion Authority does that we have no power over. There were two parts involved in the photography and filming. First, there were ordinary Egyptians taking photographs and sending them to us without payment.

We used these to show how Egyptians see their culture, including by using photographs of the Qaitbay Fortress on the Mediterranean Sea and a fuul cart next to the Four Seasons Hotel. The second part used dedicated experts, as discussed earlier.


What about the typo that changed the meaning of an ad at the Austria Tourism Fair?

An error occurred at a small fair in Austria in the Egyptian pavilion. It was not a big or important fair like the ITB in Berlin or the WTM in London. A letter at the end of a word was accidently dropped. Without that letter, the word had no meaning in the language.

What happened was that we sent the ad file to the Tourism Promotion Authority office in Austria at midnight to print and hang in the pavilion for the opening the next day. Then we discovered the error and sent a new file for the corrected ad at 10 am to rectify the error.

The Tourism Promotion Authority office was supposed to print the second file with the corrected word. They didn’t print the file and instead covered the word with a strip of black ink so it wouldn’t be noticed. This was the authority’s error, and we have the emails between us to show this.


At the ITB Fair in Berlin, JWT met with Egyptian investors and businessmen. Wouldn’t it have been better to use the fair to focus on foreigners and meet with Egyptians in Egypt?

We met with Egyptian businessmen and investors here in Egypt before we left for Berlin. Our goals were to meet Germans in Berlin through our branch offices and the PR company involved, to meet with German tour operators and explain the campaign and our plans, to discuss ways of operating in the German market and the marketing system there, and to hear their opinions so we could work as one team on the promotion.

But we went to the meeting and found only four German tour operators. The rest of the people there were Egyptian businessmen.

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