What can a sloth teach you about Costa Rica?

April 10, 2014

A new breed of sloth was discovered in Costa Rica, and he’s giving away $1 million in happiness.

The Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) and U.S. advertising agency 22squared unveiled a series of promotional videos last week that feature a talking three-toed sloth hanging from trees and zip-lining in various locations in Costa Rica. The sloth, referred to as “Mr. Sloth” in the videos, is advertising the Costa Rica’s new “Million Dollar Gift of Happiness” campaign. The promotion will give away a free trip to Costa Rica every weekday until Feb. 5, 2012, totaling $1 million in “gifts of happiness.”

In the first of two promotional videos, Mr. Sloth is found hanging out in a tree on a beach in Manuel Antonio, on the central Pacific coast.

“Hello Americas, I’m a sloth,” he says with a slow, clever drawl. “A sloth that lives in the happiest country in the world: Costa Rica.”
Mr. Sloth lists four reasons why Costa Rica is considered to be so happy: 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity, two oceans, friendly locals, and talking sloths.

The second video features Mr. Sloth as he visits Arenal Volcano in north-central Costa Rica, Playa Negra in the northwestern Guanacaste province, the National Theatre in San José, and Monteverde in the north-central region, where he falls asleep hanging upside down at the end of the video.

Andrew Jones, executive vice president and group leader of the ICT account for 22squared, told the The Tico Times this week that the talking sloth was used to differentiate the new campaign from the common template of tourism advertising for Costa Rica, which typically consists of flora, fauna and beaches.

“There has not been much innovation in tourism advertising recently, and it was clearly time for a change,” Jones said in a phone interview. “We looked at a slide with many of our competitors’ print ads on it and saw that they all blended into one common image. The sloth helps us lift and separate from that category of sameness.”

The “Million Dollar Gift of Happiness” campaign, which is hosted entirely online at www.facebook.com/visitcostarica, also strives for something different. On the site, which is the ICT’s official Facebook page, people interested in winning a “happiness vacation” can enter the contest. Entrants choose from five types of trips:  Adrenaline Happiness, Adventure Happiness, Authentic Happiness, Romantic Happiness and Wild Happiness. Each package offers different types of vacations and a video to describe the prizes. Participants can enter the contest daily.

Jones said that most of the vacations will be awarded at random, though some winners will be handpicked by 22squared to improve their happiness levels. On Tuesday, for example, Jones said that 22squared offered a vacation to a student and her teachers.
“It was a particular situation in which a child became unwell in school and her life was saved by her teachers,” Jones said. “We believe the child and teachers were worthy of a gift of happiness.”

Jones said “gifts of happiness” will also be offered to members of the media and people of influence to keep the campaign in the public eye.

The ICT committed $6.5 million to 22squared’s campaign to boost tourism from the U.S. and Canada. Jones said the goal of the campaign is to increase the number of North American tourists visiting Costa Rica by 5 percent by February 2013.

Much of that success might rely on Mr. Sloth.

“The reason we chose to use a sloth is because we found it to be a very popular animal,” Jones said. “It seems that everybody loves sloths.”

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