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WWTT? Lexington Tourism Office Uses ‘Neigh-SMR’ to Attract Visitors

Well, I’m not sure if you’ve had a true work-week until you find yourself with your headphones on at your desk, watching an ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) video featuring a horse for a tourism campaign when your boss stops by. Thankfully, most of my office knows I have a tendency to hunt down the fun and absurd marketing campaigns that are out there, and this one definitely counts.

VisitLEX, the tourism office of Lexington, Ky., launched a new campaign recently to highlight how the city is the Horse Capital of the World (and then some). While the home of Churchill Downs may be approximately 80 miles to the west, Lexington is surrounded by over 400 horse farms and is home to the 1,200-acre Kentucky Horse Park. So when VisitLEX’s agency Team Cornett suggested creating an ASMR campaign, the tourism office agreed with unbridled enthusiasm (okay, I’ll show myself out now).

Did you just watch a 2-minute video of a horse eating carrots, peppermints and apples? Yes, yes you did. Was it a little weird? Probably, but listening to anyone eat is weird in my book (and usually kind of gross). But this campaign comes from an agency who used horses mounted with cameras to film ads for VisitLEX in 2017 … ads that were successful. So why not try ASMR?

In an article by AdWeek, Whit Hiler, creative director of the agency is quoted:

“This approach is unique in the tourism space because most destinations focus on promoting the sights. The sounds of a destination are often neglected. We saw this as an opportunity to do something fun and different ,while playing on the phenomenon of ASMR. Folks can watch this video, and if they decide to visit Lexington, they can go out to the Kentucky Horse Park or one of the 400 horse farms surrounding Lexington and experience this in real life.”

And with ASMR finding its way into more marketing campaigns, including Michelob Ultra’s ad for the Super Bowl this year, both Team Cornett and VisitLEX are not wrong to give this tactic a shot.

Aside from showcasing a beautiful animal — the kind you could see up close and in person if you were to visit — watching and hearing a horse eat carrots and apples is a happy childhood memory for many people. The campaign taps into that simple joy, and in my opinion, is well done and pretty unique in the hospitality space (though I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Moxy Hotels offering ASMR bedtime story videos for guests who can’t sleep).

If you consider Michelob Ultra’s ad, which had Zoe Kravitz doing ASMR-y things, like running her finger nails over the bottle and whispering into a microphone, well, you might ask, what does that have to do with light beer? Nothing really. So in that case, the ad is tapping into the popularity of ASMR videos simply for the sake of jumping onto the trend.

But VisitLEX showcasing a horse from the Kentucky Horse Park, doing what a horse is going to do when you hand it a carrot or apple (microphones around or not), feels less like jumping onto a trend and more like applying the trend effectively to promote the vacation destination of Lexington.

VisitLEX is also sharing the video on social, including the hashtag of #ShareTheLex … and it’ll be interesting to see how the campaign pans out for them. Already, the majority of the comments on the video’s YouTube page are positive.

So what do you think marketers? Does ASMR videos have a place in advertising campaigns, or are they a popular trend that are best left to YouTubers who want to rack up millions of views while eating a pickle or scratching a hairbrush? Tell me in the comments below!