Who comes up with the idea for WestJet’s Christmas video every year? Once you have the idea, how do you plan it? What are the biggest challenges? Do you ever wonder if your Christmas campaign idea won’t work?
These are questions we get every year around Christmas time and, with the exception of the last one, (yes, of course!) there isn’t a simple answer.
A brief history of WestJet Christmas
Each year, we challenge ourselves to come up with a new and unique way to spread Christmas cheer and to celebrate the season with our guests. What started as a (relatively) simple Christmas flash mob evolved into a more elaborate Christmas Miracle surprise that still captures the imaginations of people 4 years later. Our blue hat-wearing WestJetters helped Blue Santa give gifts to a community in Dominican Replublic who need them most. We then asked our 12,000 WestJetters to help us spread the Christmas spirit from London to Hawaii and from Costa Rica to Yellowknife. And, of course, who could forget Fort McMurray last year. That one is still near and dear to our hearts.
Each of these Christmas endeavors comes with its own unique challenges. Whether it involves importing a snow-making machine into a tropical country, relying on complete strangers to show up and make it work or hoping that some snow (any snow!) will turn a brown field into a winter wonderland for our big Christmas event, we’ve always had some good luck to go with our hard work.
Christmas starts early
Make no mistake about it. We don’t leave everything up to chance. Our Christmas Miracles start early and a lot of people put a lot of effort into planning them.
Developing the next Christmas Miracle doesn’t start with an idea though. It starts with identifying objectives – what we want to achieve. Once objectives are laid out, we can start to go through the ideas that inevitably start to pour in from guests and WestJetters the moment we release our Christmas video every December.
The spring is an amazing time in our Christmas campaign planning because everything is possible and no idea is too big. By June we really have to start limiting our brainstorming and decide on the concept.
Is there a formula for choosing a Christmas campaign theme? Not really, but some ideas just seem to float to the top of Santa’s nice list each year. Those are the ones that we do a deeper dive into to see if we think they have enough substance to work.
Then we choose one and the real work begins.
The 12 Flights of Christmas
This year, we wanted to (again) create a positive Christmas experience for our guests flying with us. We also wanted to expand the experience over a series of weeks instead of just doing one event. Finally, we wanted to give skeptics a way to see that these things really do happen in real life. While there are always a handful of people who get to experience our Christmas events in person, there are many who don’t and some who question if it really happened.
To achieve these objectives, we decided to do something that has never been done before – 12 surprise events in 12 days, all broadcast live to WestJet’s Facebook page.
We also wanted to acknowledge everyone who sent us a great letter, email or private message on Facebook sharing their Christmas story or idea. That inspired us to give everyone a chance to vote on elements of our live events and watch the surprises unfold live on Facebook. A huge and sincere thank you to everyone who voted every day and tuned in to Facebook Live to watch. If you haven’t seen them yet, head over to our Christmas Miracle hub to watch all 12 live events.
The remaining challenge for this year’s Christmas Miracle was how we could tell an original story when everyone has already seen what happened. If we’ve already broadcast everything via Facebook Live, why would anyone watch another video later? There had to be some unexpected twist that brought it all together.
Enter the true stars of this year’s Christmas Miracle.
Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada
As you will see by watching this year’s video below, to ensure we captured the magic of Christmas just right, we sought out the help of some experts on the subject – children.
In August we approached one of our WestJet Cares for Kids partners, Boys and Girls Club of Canada, to see if their members would be willing to sit down with us and help us come up with a plan. We invited a group of kids to a Christmas brainstorming session and compiled all their ideas of what the ultimate Christmas would be like. The ideas were pretty amazing.
A life-sized snow globe? We can do that.
A concert in the sky? Just let us know what flight you want it on.
An entire gate made out of gingerbread? We’re going to need a bigger oven!
A ballet performance or a Christmas meal for an entire flight at the baggage carousel? Sounds like our kind of party.
Then we took those ideas and brought them to life for all our guests (in person and online) to enjoy.
Pulling off a dozen surprises in 9 different airports and on one flight is no easy task. To be completely honest, it would have been impossible without the help and collaboration of all the various Airports Authority teams across our network, our local WestJetters and a variety of partners who brought this miracle to life.
To everyone who was involved – whether your job was in front of the camera wearing a blue hat or a gingerbread suit, or behind the scenes doing one of a thousand different tasks to ensure success – we offer our sincere thanks for your cooperation.
Here’s the final result of everyone’s efforts. We hope it helps to put you into the Christmas spirit.
As Santa and Mrs. Claus say, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good flight!”