OutHorse Your Email

Entered by: Business Iceland

In 2022, after two years of pandemic, tourism globally was still nowhere near 2019 levels. The UN World Tourism Organization predicted international arrivals for the year would reach 55% - 70% of 2019 levels, with full industry recovery coming after 2023. Tourism-dependent Iceland couldn’t wait that long. Additionally, 2022 saw travel category ad spend increase 83% YOY, from $1.2 billion in H1 2021 to $2.1 billion in H1 2022.

Meanwhile, Iceland’s budget didn’t budge. Massively outspent, they needed to find an earned way to break through the noise and become the top of mind, preferred destination, all amidst a sea of big-budgeted competitors vying for the same re-emerging travellers’ attention.

By the spring of 2022, the target audience had become accustomed to many of the challenges that the pandemic imposed on daily life, including remote work, endless emails, and dissolved boundaries between personal and professional life. This ‘always-on’ style of working left them burnt out, overworked, and deeply in need of a distraction-free vacation.

But according to a March 2022 study, even while on our much-needed vacations, 60% of us are compelled to check our work emails. The cultural narrative further supported this “Work From Vacation” mindset. Destinations were pitching themselves as places to mix leisure and work, and publications coined depressing phrases like “Paid Time On.” Against this backdrop, the team saw an opportunity to achieve cultural relevance with an idea that—finally—gave the audience the work-free vacation they sorely needed.

To measure the success of the campaign, they set the following KPIs: To increase travel intent by 5% in the US, to win 1 billion earned media impressions and to engage 10,000 unique people through the activation.

The team made travellers’ email distractions their sworn enemies and developed an unexpected antidote to this plight: OutHorse Your Email. A revolutionary service where Iceland’s horses type real out-of-office replies for anyone in need of a break from their inbox. To make it happen, the team built a fully functional, horse-sized keyboard and enlisted real Icelandic horses to type by trotting over it. They then produced a video introducing the OutHorse Your Email service, intentionally weaving in the very topical and relatable frustrations of having to work 24/7, from wherever you are.

Anyone could visit the website to get their email OutHorsed by an Icelandic horse, read the horses’ backstories, and discover things to do in Iceland. A tongue-in-cheek press release and toolkit included assets from production to help frame a media-worthy story. The aim was to generate mass coverage with a media focus of print, online and broadcast across target markets and global publications.

In key media titles, interviews with Sigríður Dögg Guðmundsdóttir from Inspired by Iceland and Jelena Ohm, Project Manager, Horses of Iceland, allowing for bigger feature pieces beyond the initial launch announcement. As for challenges they faced along the way, it was no easy feat building the world’s first fully functional, horse-sized keyboard!  But with a few rounds of (nonverbal) feedback, the Icelandic equine collaborators helped the team pull off this first-of-its-kind technological innovation.

You can’t put a value on thousands of tourists seeing a geyser explode without phones buzzing in their pockets. But OutHorse Your Email did earn 3.7 billion impressions with $6.8 million in earned media and 100% positive press sentiment, leading to a 16.8% increase in travel intent in the US.

The team also saw over 21K+ OutHorsed emails sent. And best of all, 391K tourists flew into Iceland’s Keflavík Airport in Q2/2022—the busiest quarter since 2019. To the team’s knowledge, none of those people got fired.

OutHorse Your Email was born from the creative platform and endline, Looks Like You Need Iceland. First launched in 2021, the platform positions the team as meeting the changing needs of travellers in uniquely Icelandic ways. Looking ahead, the evolving cultural conversation will determine the approach that they (and the horses) take with their next campaign.


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