The Christmas PR stunt took 175 airline workers, 3 airports, 250 passengers, and one virtual Santa. Oh, and one more number: 9.6 million YouTube views.
WestJet is a low-cost carrier out of Canada. They do fly to several U.S. cities, but Atlanta is not among them. Greg Plata, Team leader of WestJet's Sponsorship team, explained the project on the company's website: "In early August, we sat down with our friends at Studio M and started brainstorming what 'giving' looked like at its best. We wanted to do something big, exciting, and fresh."
That something started at the Toronto Pearson airport and the John C. Munro airport. Both flights were headed to Calgary. A virtual Santa had passengers scan their tickets then tell him what they wanted for Christmas. Behind the scenes, WestJet workers took copious notes.
The flights took just over four hours. In that time, WestJet workers flew into action, fulfilling each request. Cameras were rolling when the wrapped gifts came down the baggage claim belts. At first, the passengers look confused. But then, as they see their names on the gifts, they open the boxes to discover (surprise!) exactly what they told Santa they wanted.
That's when the man in blue. Yes, blue, the airline's color, walks into the baggage claim area to a round of applause. The airline promised to donate flights to families in need through the Ronald McDonald House if the video received 200,000 views. Three days later, and closing in on ten million views, Plata defends against critics calling it a (really awesome) PR stunt: "I want to be clear- this wasn't about branding; this was about you," he posted on WestJet's company site. "No one could script the emotional reaction of our guests to the simple gesture of a gift given for the sake of making someone's day.
They've now released a "bloopers" video. It mostly includes passengers asking for gifts impossible to fit into their plan: a new car, a big diamond, a Stanley Cup win.
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