Mexico drives tourism with humor and hidden cameras

In November 2011, the Mexico Tourism Board launched the "Mexico Taxi Project" to engage US consumers in an authentic and humorous way.

Company: Mexico Tourism Board
Campaign: The Mexico Taxi Project
Agency Mix: Ogilvy (media outreach, social media); Publicis Groupe (ad, creative); MPG (media buying); Media Contacts (digital)
In-house team: Gerardo Llanes, CMO; Francia Santana, digital head; Yadira Lopez, PR coordinator; Ivan Martinez, international media director
Budget: About $2.5 million

In November 2011, the Mexico Tourism Board launched the "Mexico Taxi Project" to engage US consumers in an authentic and humorous way.

The effort uses the hidden-camera concept from HBO's reality show Taxicab Confessions to highlight Mexico as a tourism destination. For the initiative, screeners masking as representatives of a new tequila brand offer random travelers returning to US airports from Cancun or Los Cabos free rides home. During their trip, the driver (an actor) asks about their stay in Mexico.

When the ride ends, passengers are told the truth and sign a waiver to allow their comments to be used. Comments appeared in 30-second commercials on nine cable stations in the US through December. More ads are planned for January to March, Mexico's winter tourism season.

"Having real consumers or travelers talk about their experience is a lot more credible than just traditional commercials," says Gerardo Llanes, CMO of the Mexico Tourism Board.

The board decided to execute the taxi project, Llanes explains, because research showed that 98% of people who come to Mexico would recommend the country as a tourist destination.

When the effort began, taxis picked up travelers returning to Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles. It has since expanded to include Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, and Montreal. The campaign also added Mexican cities, including Puerto Vallarta.

To promote the program, AOR Ogilvy engaged outlets including The New York Times, USA Today, and the Toronto Star.

"We want people to choose Mexico as a destination and be educated about what's going on there," says Jennifer Risi, head of Ogilvy's media influence division.

Ogilvy reached out to travel, advertising, and marketing bloggers to drive awareness.

Commercials are also available on the microsite and on Mexico Taxi Project's Facebook page and YouTube channel.

"Everything has been image driven in the past," says Llanes. "This is the first time we broke out of the mold of traditionally talking about a destination."

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