On behalf of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, Etihad Airways and Yas Island, CNN International has launched a new advertising and branded content tourism campaign: “Destination Abu Dhabi”.
The TV and digital campaign comprises three features developed by CNN International Commercial’s branded content studio, Create. Each video revolves around real-life stories featuring real people – not actors. The TVCs have been adapted for digital on a Destination Abu Dhabi branded content hub.
The digital content features 360-degree videos filmed using VR technology and aerial footage of Abu Dhabi shot using drones.
CNN has not just developed the content but is also using its tool AIM (Audience Insight Measurement) to target specific audience segments and demographics. The campaign is being pushed to CNN’s global audience, while the branded content hub is being promoted through native advertising placements across CNN Digital, which has more than three billion page views every month.
John Malone, director of Create, notes that, in just a few weeks, the campaign is already seeing levels of engagement, dwell time and CTR that are outperforming the industry average, with the branded content hub seeing more than 150,000 visitors in the first three weeks alone.
For this campaign, VR provided an opportunity to immerse the target audience in the experience. “Storytelling has evolved from a spoken tradition. It’s big and visual, just like Abu Dhabi in many respects,” says Malone. “The CNN audience wants to explore and they want access. In news and storytelling, VR amplifies emotional responses, especially empathy. You identify with the subject and are immersed in the location.”
While he is uncomfortable commenting on the investment in VR tech and drones, he does add: “We have invested in both bespoke and commercially available drones, and, in the latter case, we pilot them ourselves. We have the expertise in-house to use drones and VR kits, and we are growing our aerial filming resource.”
For this particular campaign, however, CNN worked with a third-party VR expert to capture the 360-degree content and develop it.
Perhaps more importantly, the use of VR marks a significant moment in how CNN tells stories. “We will continue to invest in this area [VR]; CNN has made a broader editorial commitment to VR storytelling and, at Create, we reflect that commitment in the branded content space,” says Malone.
But he is clear that, for CNN, “VR doesn’t replace TV but rather complements it. CNN is committed to offering our viewers access – access to the exclusive as well as the inclusive.”