30 Under 30 – Greg Plata

Team lead, sponsorship and experiential marketing, WestJet

A miracle helped, but it was Greg Plata’s vision for content and experiential marketing that is changing how WestJet builds its brand

There’s a touching moment at the climax of “WestJet’s Christmas Miracle” when a young family receives a TV and the mother, overwhelmed and surprised, sticks her fingers under her glasses to wipe away her tears.

What the viewer doesn’t see is the man behind the video, Greg Plata, who’s standing just off camera, wiping away his own tears.
From its inception to that moment, Plata was the driving force of “Christmas Miracle.” Corey Evans, sponsorship manager at WestJet, says the stunt “wouldn’t have happened” without Plata, who first had the idea to launch an activation during the holiday season — a time when other brands are gearing down.

The bet paid off handsomely, with the video bringing in more than 36 million views and pushing up revenue 77% over the previous December, a jump Evans says is a direct result of the video. Likewise, bookings were up 86% along with a 100% jump in traffic to, proving well-crafted content can move the needle.

“Christmas Miracle” also landed the company two bronze Cannes Lions—a first for WestJet. Evans says the video has become a benchmark for content marketing at WestJet and proof that the brand should be exploring new forms of marketing.

“WestJet’s a very traditional marketer. [“Christmas Miracle”] opened everyone’s eyes to the opportunity of doing things differently,” Evans says.

Before Plata joined WestJet in 2011, experiential and content marketing were foreign terms. Plata, who’d previously worked in strategy at TrojanOne for brands such as Coca-Cola, Canadian Tire and Nike Canada, soon proved himself with projects such as the “West Jet Flash Mob” and #NYCASAP, a 2012 launch concept for service to New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

That stunt saw 100 brand ambassadors dressed as the Statue of Liberty flood Toronto, giving out 23,000 boarding passes for 20% off flights; 150 of which had codes for free flights. The campaign led to 15 million media impressions within 24 hours and more than 4,500 Twitter impressions.

WestJet’s senior ranks took note and, in 2012, Plata was promoted from sponsorship coordinator to team lead. The company also created an experiential marketing department, giving Plata a team of three direct reports.

As this year’s holidays approach, Plata has plans for another initiative that pairs experiential marketing with socially minded content. The key, he says, will be using storytelling to connect just as “Christmas Miracle” did, because that connection was what prompted consumers to share the video.

Whether Plata’s able to craft another award-worthy stunt won’t be seen until this winter, but it’s safe to assume plenty of fliers will clutch WestJet boarding passes as they pull up to their gate this December, hoping there’s another miracle in store.

Meet the rest of the 30 Under 30 for 2014

Photography by Mike Ford
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