In an effort to woo flinty millennials into travelling at home rather than look for adventures abroad, the Canadian tourism board, Destination Canada, has enlisted Bell’s youth-targeted MUCH. The product of the partnership is the site Far & Wide, “A MUCH travel guide to Canada.” Neither organization will say how much the deal is worth or whether it was appropriate to strike while Bell is appealing a CRTC decision to the same ministry.
Bell was the only company considered for the venture, according to a spokeswoman at the tourism board. Danielle Vlemmiks said the research Destination Canada did showed Bell was the “only national media company with the reach and integration to meet [the campaign’s] objectives.” She couldn’t say what previous campaigns Bell or MUCH had done that made it such a stellar candidate, but said, “Destination Canada has worked with national and international media providers on similar campaigns.”
Bell is currently petitioning the federal cabinet to overturn a CRTC ruling that opens up its new fibreoptic network to third-party providers.
Destination Canada is the federal government’s arms-length tourism board, which falls under the purview of Tourism and Small Business Minister Bardish Chagger and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains. CANADALAND readers may remember ISED and its minister as those overseeing the telecom industry, including Bell.
Questions to the department about whether it was appropriate for a Crown corporation under the the ISED umbrella to be doing exclusive business with a company appealing a regulatory ruling weren’t answered. We’ll update the story if we get a reply.
Neither the government’s tourism board nor Bell Media will say how much the partnership is worth. Bell refused outright to comment on any details of the deal.
Vlemmiks wouldn’t get specific on the value of the campaign. “Destination Canada and our industry partners have invested $5.8 million (about $1.9 million from DC over the next two years, with the rest coming from our partners). This investment has resulted in significant media and production value from Bell Media bringing the total value of the campaign to nearly $10 million,” she said.
When asked whether this meant the Bell campaign was worth about $4.2 million — the difference between $10 million and $5.8 million — Vlemmiks said she couldn’t comment on the actual value of the deal due to “commercial confidentiality.”
Bell’s creation, Far & Wide is a flashy mix of videos, articles, and a weekly newsletter promoting travel in Canada. It’s part of a larger industry trend of custom advertising content where media organizations offer their brand and prestige directly to advertisers.Far & Wide also features “adventure” stories like “Take the plunge: Surfing in Tofino”, a fancied-up directory of local surf shops, surf spots, and surf instructors. Destination Canada is charging between $5,000 and $25,000 for a company to be included in the project.
This isn’t the first time Bell and the Liberal government have partnered. Previously, the Liberal party co-branded Bell’s Let’s Talk mental health campaign by running images of staffers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and his wife Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau alongside Bell branding. The public alignment of the corporation and the party struck some of Bell’s competitors as odd, given the telecom company’s efforts to have the Liberal cabinet over turn a CRTC ruling.