It seemed like a good idea at the time. Sweden, in an effort to showcase the personality and diversity of the country, would hand over the country's official Twitter account to a new everyday citizen every week. Everything was going great at first, with the first few curators representing a wide and interesting swath, from a female priest to a lesbian truck driver. Things started out well too with this week's account manager, Sonja Abrahamsson, a colorful, outspoken mother of two with a love for four-letter words. Abrahamsson came under fire, however, after tweeting statements insensitive to the Jewish and LGBTQ populations. She later apologized, but the tweets have remained live on the account and representatives from Visit Sweden say they have no plans to censor her in an effort to keep the campaign authentic. We'll see what happens with future curators.
Sweden's isn't the first example of a great campaign gone sour. In their honor, here are some of our favorite tourism campaigns from recent years, a few that flopped, and a few we're on the fence about.
Youngstown SteelHounds: Yes, this actually aired on television during a Youngstown SteelHounds game. The production value's a bit off, but you've got to admire these Colorado residents' departure from the usual mountain vistas in favor of a more self-deprecating look at local institutions.
Alaska's 'B4UDIE': Simple, but effective—a billboard and a website bearing the Alaska license plate "B4UDIE." We're not particularly fans of using fear to market to people, but nothing can be an impetus for travel quite like the ol' bucket list. "Hey, you're gonna be worm food pretty soon. Better make that trip to Alaska."
EF Tours' 'Live The Language': Precious, colorful depictions of four global cities—Paris, Barcelona, Beijing and London—using typography and film to encourage students to immerse themselves in new languages and cultures abroad. One of the most visually appealing and travel-bug-inducing campaigns I've seen. Only downside is that if this campaign is effective, you will have to hear about your friend's semester in Barcelona for the next five years. Have fun with that.
Canada's "Locals Know": Many tourism campaigns have tried to capture the essence of a place, with off-the-beaten-path locales and local favorites. Canada's tourism association took that to the streets in 2009 for a "Locals Know" campaign, where Canadians submitted YouTube videos of their favorite places, and it was quite a mix.
Where The Bloody Hell Are You?: The road to (bloody) hell is paved with good intentions. Considered one of the biggest tourism-ad flops in recent years, this spot makes Australia look pretty damn nice and inviting, but due to the use of "bloody hell," an offensive epithet in some parts of the English-speaking world, the ad was prohibited from airing on television in the United Kingdom, shutting out a pretty big demographic. Oops.
Hot Israel: Remember that time the Israeli government paid for a sexy spread in Maxim featuring fresh-from-the-army bikini-clad women in an effort to rebrand the country as, well, hotter? Welp, that happened. Whether or not it worked was one thing, but it didn't sit well with many locals, including religious and women's groups.
North Dakota's Double-Whammy: The Flickertail State (no, really) has made quite a few tourism blunders. In addition to this fiercely gendered, tacky "Legendary" ad, the Convention and Visitors Bureau of the snot-freezingly-cold city of Fargo used the slogan "Always Warm." Obviously, this is referring to the welcome you will receive upon arriving in Fargo, North Dakota, but the joke is an eye-roller.
I Love New York: Yes, technically, this is one of the greatest advertising campaigns of all time. Yes, it defined modern tourism and helped revamp New York as a destination worth a visit. It was simple, ubiquitous and effective. But we haven't heard the end of it since. "Virginia Is For Lovers" would also go in this category to a lesser extent for being effective and a sweet slogan, but now primarily being associated with t-shirts sold at Urban Outfitters or by pop-punk bands circa 2003.
"Kidnapped Chicagoan": Right now, on all the various above-ground trains in Chicago, there are advertisements encouraging commuters to help find the "Kidnapped Chicagoan." He's on Twitter, he's on Pinterest, he's on Instagram, he's pretty social media-savvy. He's also a campaign to encourage 20-somethings to make a getaway to St. Louis. As a campaign, it's fun and modern, and St. Louis is (and this may shock some of you mega-metropolis-dwellers) a city actually worth visiting for reasons more than just that monster arch. But isn't this campaign sort of implying that the only way a Chicagoan will actually visit St. Louis is if you hold them for ransom at Busch Stadium? Could be read that way.