Friday, December 2, 2011

Cancun Candid Camera

The discussion of public diplomacy led me to consider the implications of soft power in the form of tourism and particularly advertisement of tourism.

After battling years of dwindling tourism dollars, Colombia redeveloped its travel sector by cultivating an aggressive publicity and advertisement campaign. After years of prompting its image and particularly its safety, Colombia has begun attracting tourists back to the country.

A similar decrease in foreign visitors has prompted The Mexico Tourism Board, eager to implement a similarly aggressive strategy to improve Mexico’s reputation. Plagued by border violence, drug-related crime, and kidnapping, The Mexico Tourism Board is most concerned with altering the perception that it is an unsafe destination for tourists. And the the reputation is unfounded. In Sepetmber the bodies of 35 tourists were dumped in the popular tourist destination of Veracuz, and mass grave of 18 tourists was discovered a year ago.

But, Mexico’s new commercials, which are now showing on several U.S. cable channels, feature candid-camera style interviews with American tourists returning from vacations in the country. The Mexico Taxi Project is the Mexico Tourism Boards effort to capture the unbiased opinions of Americans who know Mexican resorts, destinations, and activities. The rationale of the campaign’s creative team is that viewers are more likely to believe the “candid” opinions of other Americans as opposed to well-crafted and polished promos featuring model-like tourists frolicking on white sand beaches with pina colada in hand. The imagery and tone of the commercial suggests that Mexico is attempting to adapt word-of-mouth marketing to a mass audience.

Only time will tell if it can successful reinvigorate Mexico’s lackluster tourism sector, however until the country can get its affairs in order and curb violence fueled by confrontations of drug cartels the campaign may be all for naught. While the success of Colombia’s campaign serves a model of success, it was just a late-implemented component of a larger body of reforms aimed at combating narco-terrorism and. That is to say the ad campaigns were successful at drawing tourists to Colombia only after the country had begun to successfully improve its situation.


  1. I saw those commercials and my first thought was the same, isn't this a very dangerous time in Mexico with all of the killings and the drug wars intensifying. I mean, tourism definitely is needed to drive revenue to their country, but how can you offer safety in their tourist destinations when there have been killings of tourists.

    It's interesting that they are going with the candid camera approach for their marketing campaign. It seems as if they should really just try to cater their advertisements to college students, since I doubt many families would want to go to the country in its current state.

  2. Interesting post. It's funny, I never think about the economic consequences of tourism or lack thereof. I forget how many countries really bank on tourism to buttress their economies. The problem is that the health of the tourism sector in significantly influenced by the perception of safety and order that a prospective traveler may have about a country, as you demonstrated through the examples you shared about Mexico and Colombia. Simon Anholt might suggest that Mexico engage in a nation-branding campaign to decrease the perception that the country is unsafe. One of the interesting points I learned when researching nation-branding is that people/consumers are more savvy than we think. Real problem cant be glossed over by sophisticated communication campaigns. Also, it's much more difficult to change the perceptions of countries with a high profile. I guess I am trying to say Mexico has a tough hill to climb!

  3. While "Cancún Candid Camera" initially made me think of a different sort of candid Cancún visual to which I think Renca might be able to attest, I do think this post offers a great example of one element of effective communication that I think we may have glossed over in our discussions: trust. The importance of trust, whether it be in advertising of other types of communication, can't be overstated. When it comes to network theory in particular, scholars say that nodes gain real power when their associations are backed up with trust. I think the Mexican campaign is a clear effort to send a message that Americans are more likely to find trustworthy—that is, candid interviews with real travelers—than the typical sunny beach tourism campaign. It's the same effect Facebook advertisers are trying to capitalize on when they tell me, "Jeff Hutter likes America's Next Top Model!"