Finland's 'Rent a Finn' Tourism Campaign Lets You Do Exactly That

Allow the locals to show you around

Why call a Swede, when you can rent a Finn?

In 2016, the Swedish Tourist Association launched a lauded campaign with random Swedes serving as brand ambassadors who chatted with callers from around the world about life in the Scandinavian country (and just about everything else, for that matter). 
 
Now, Visit Finland and SEK, a unit of Grey, take the concept of personalized tourism outreach a step further, offering summer vacation trips to the Nordic nation, complete with local "happiness guides." 

The notion stemmed from a recent UN report naming Finland the happiest country on the planet for the second straight year, with its scenic beauty and outdoor attractions playing a key role in that selection. Through "Rent a Finn," eight guides will host visitors for three days of restorative activities, ranging from fishing trips and berry picking to relaxing dips in rustic Finnish saunas.

Those guides appear in the project video:

Sure, they look happy now. Will a few days of dealing with houseguests drive the smiles from their faces? Probably not. After all, they're Finns. 

Guest and guide selection took place a few months back, with prospective visitors submitting videos to illustrate why they wanted to get happy the Finnish way. Potential guides were asked to display their regional knowledge and prove they'd make good hosts. The trips are scheduled from June through August, with recaps posting online in September. 

You can view entries (there were 6,000 overall) at RentAFinn.com, along with the guide-guest pairings. The travelers hail from China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. One of the guides, "Esko," serves as mayor of Rovaniemi, which is located near the Arctic Circle and bills itself as the hometown of Santa Claus. Dude seems downright jolly. 

All in all, it's a fun way to cast Finland as the welcoming hub of global happiness during these increasingly unsettled times. And the initiative goes beyond the contest, with Visit Finland encouraging all Finns to "rent" themselves to random visitors for a few hours or "invite someone you know to visit Finland this summer." Conversely, "you can also rent yourself while abroad. Share the secrets and wisdom of being a happy Finn with the locals." 

Despite paid advertising in only 10 markets, earned media helped the campaign reach 1.4 billion people across 150 countries. That's some rad ROI, especially considering the big role tourism plays in the nation's economy, generating about $17 billion annually and employing 140,000 Finns.

"In the highly competitive travel marketing field, Finland can never compete with the big media budgets of larger destinations," says SEK creative director Suvi Lähde. "But we can use our uniqueness, not as something for everyone but as something special. We can break travel industry clichés with something so different and remarkable." 

What's more, "Rent a Finn is not only ownable for Finland due to its basis in the UN Happiness Report, but also meaningful because of its higher purpose of bringing more happiness to the world," Lähde says. "Instead of simply selling tourism, it's branding a whole nation." 

Below is the case study. 

CREDITS

Client: Visit Finland
Advert: Rent a Finn
Creative Agency: SEK | Part of Grey
PR: Visit Finland & SEK
Media Placement: Dagmar
Film Production: Cocoa Mediaproductions & SEK 
Digital production: Creuna Finland
Additional credits: Hintsa Performance

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.