As a travel destination Vienna made a bold move in the age of social media by taking a stand against online ratings and reviews that have changed our way of traveling over the past few years and had a lasting impact on our holiday decisions. The Vienna Tourist Board used real negative online ratings from the web to promote its most beautiful spots. By utilizing these often ridiculous write-ups from online raters the campaign “Unrating Vienna” emphasized the importance of making your own decisions while traveling. Because why would you entrust strangers on the web with planning your perfect trip?
95% of holidaymakers check online rating portals such as TripAdvisor or Expedia before traveling or while planning their trip. Top-ten-lists, must-see-lists and the sights with the highest score dominate these websites. This causes a homogenization of travel experiences because more and more visitors rely on the same reviews and scores and simply experience more of the same. Individual choices and experiences off the beaten path become rarer and places with lower scores struggle to attract new audiences. Vienna is a city that encourages visitors to make unique experiences and to not entrust anonymous online raters with choosing them for you.
Interpretation (30% of vote)
Vienna has a driving principle: Encouraging enjoyment. It is a city that has a lot to offer for all tastes: from imperial glamour and traditional cafés to modern architecture and green city living. There are unique experiences around every corner. But how can the city provide individual moments and unique experiences, when visitors increasingly rely on the same top-ten-sights promoted by large online portals? Small museums or tiny restaurants can’t be discovered because more and more tourists simply tick off their check-list of recommended must-see places. So the Vienna Tourist Board decided to take on the “ratings mania” by making obvious how ridiculous and subjective online reviews can be. By showing that it only takes a few cranky or moody visitors to downvote an otherwise memorable place or moment. The rating of a place does not automatically tell something about its charm. The campaign encouraged travelers to regain their autonomy.
Insight / Breakthrough Thinking (30% of vote)
The Vienna Tourist Board is constantly monitoring social trends among the city’s visitors and is in permanent exchange with the local travel industry, hotels and restaurants and cultural institutions. The growing influence and importance of rating portals such as TripAdvisor is noticeable on both sides. 95% of all holidaymakers consult ratings before planning their trip. Vienna attracts a lot of visitors who stay only for a couple of days and want to get most out of their stay. So they consult top-ten-lists or plan must-see-tours to cover the most important sights. But these places are not necessarily the ones that provide tourists with the most enjoyable experience. By simply following the highest scores visitors are robbed of unique discoveries and a sense of exploration. Vienna thought of a way of “breaking the algorithm” by demonstrating that not all of the ratings contributing to a final score are reliable and helpful.
Creative Idea (20% of vote)
For the campaign “Unrating Vienna” we emblazoned the worst and often weirdest real user reviews found on the web’s most prominent rating platforms over perfect moments, memorable experiences or beautiful spots in Vienna to help visualize the absurdity of the ratings mania. Users downvoting a church because there was no wifi, a traditional café because they offered no coffee to go or an art gallery because it had too many works on display. The outdoor campaign was rolled out in Austria, Germany, Spain, France and the UK. Our digital ads were displayed in places ruled by ratings – on popular online platforms such as TripAdvisor or Amazon, bravely taking on the “rating giants” on their own territory. In Vienna, one of the world’s most famous art galleries had its most absurd real ratings projected onto its facade for everyone to see in one of the city’s most frequented squares.
Outcome / Results (20% of vote)
The international press took the “Unrating Vienna” campaign, rolled out in 5 European countries, as its cue to discuss ratings, their validity and their growing influence on our travel choices. News outlets such as Süddeutsche Zeitung, The Daily Telegraph, The Washington Post or La Repubblica joined in on the discussion as well as media opinion leaders that are closely linked to the tourism industry like Monocle or Lonely Planet. Further acknowledgement came from within the tourism industry itself that greeted the broad spotlight on the double-edged reality of rating platforms with big approval. Overall the campaign reached 275 million earned media impressions with a very limited budget. Journalists took the opportunity and visited low-rated places in Vienna and compared their negative reviews to the actual feeling and value of these places – thus further creating discussion among target audiences about who should be in charge of our holiday-shaping decisions.