Danes Plan Storytelling Site for American Tourists

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The Danish Tourist Board is set for a September debut of an interactive storytelling Web site aimed at getting Americans and Canadians to visit Denmark's capital of Copenhagen.


While the address is under wraps, the site will feature stories highlighting Danish culture and narrated in the voice of Danes. There will be no bikini-clad women or misty fjords.


"The goal is to create a digital bridge that will get Americans to explore Denmark and meet Danes for the first time online, knowing that the experience will induce Americans to travel to Denmark," said Ken Harper, CEO of Rolling Thunder Media, Bothell, WA.


Rolling Thunder crafted the campaign, meant to replicate the Danish experience online. An estimated $250,000 budget was earmarked for the push.


The effort particularly targets Americans and Canadians age 35 to 54 years who travel to Europe often and use the Internet to develop their journey plans.


"The challenge that they have is they're looking for tourists who come to Europe but who don't necessarily go north of Germany," Harper said.


Stories on the site will include accounts from Erik Messerschmidt, communications director at Copenhagen's Danish Architecture Center; Poul Erik Tornier, art critic and director of Louisiana, Denmark's museum of modern art in Copenhagen; and jazz musician Pierre Dorge.


Other anecdotes feature the account of Arne Melchior, who helped evacuate Danish Jews before the Nazi roundup in 1943, and an account from Thomas Dickson, editor and director of a collective on Danish design ranging from jewelry to furniture.


"This is the first phase of the site," Harper said, "and if it goes well, the Danes will use this for what they call their distance markets -- England or Japan or Singapore. These are countries that would require travel by air or boat."


In the following phase, the Danish Tourist Board will extend the site's focus to business travelers who come to Europe and have the option of spending their weekend in Denmark. A later version of the site will go beyond Copenhagen and into Denmark's smaller towns and countryside.


Harper said the Internet was an ideal medium for digital story exchanges.


"We find average time spent on the site goes up five times over what was the average time on the top 20 sites in 1999, or 56 seconds," Harper said, referring to a Nielsen study two years ago.


The Danish Tourist Board interviewed more than 65,000 Americans, Europeans and Asians over two years to gauge their perceptions of Denmark. Six qualities emerged: coziness, unpretentiousness, talented people, creative design, freedom in terms of tolerance and an environmental oasis in Europe.


Rolling Thunder will promote the new site in myriad ways. Among the options are public relations and a "Tell your favorite digital story" contest. The agency, which had $3 million in billings last year, has lined up two undisclosed corporate sponsors, one Danish and the other from the United States, for the contest.


"[The challenge] is to introduce Danes to Americans and help Americans find out about a culture and country that most know very little about," Harper said.


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