NWT Tourism’s choice of actor Adam Beach as the face of its national advertising campaign has stirred a testy debate among followers of the Northern-themed television series.
Beach is the star of Arctic Air, CBC’s top drama program, and online commentaries that followed a story on the public network were mostly critical of the actor for everything from not being a Northerner to demanding too much money for public appearances.
Some said the honours should have gone to Mikey McBryan, general manager of Buffalo Airways, for his work on Ice Pilots NWT, or Alex Debogorski, a perennial favorite with viewers of Ice Road Truckers.
A supportive comment, which garnered a meager plus five, related a warm and moving experience with Beach in Garden River, a northern Alberta community, and concluded: “He would be an excellent representative.”
“He’s pretty and an OK actor, but the show stinks,” said one post, which drew a positive rating of 94. Another told how his community sought Beach for a personal appearance.
“We told him to take a hike,” the poster wrote, after learning it would cost $10,000 – half the actor’s usual fee. That drew a positive rating of 106. At first reluctant to reveal the details of the contract with Beach, Brian Desjardins, NWT Tourism’s executive director, said he discussed the matter with the actor before issuing a statement to “dispel any myths out there that we have inked some sort of multi-million dollar deal.”
“He will receive, in total, $25K plus travel expenses,” Desjardins said. “I believe this speaks to his character, and (he) genuinely loves the Northwest Territories and wants to help promote (it).”
In return, Desjardins said, the private and publicly-funded tourism NGO, will receive “four special appearances at NWT Tourism coordinated events; voice-over star in our TV ads that air during Arctic Air season two; image in Globe and Mail ads; images used on the website and other minor marketing collateral as required; video shoots for use on our social media; autographed posters.”
In all, Desjardins concluded, the Beach promotion package is “Truly amazing!”
This is the second season that NWT Tourism has used Arctic Air as a gateway to the show’s one million viewers.
He stopped short of claiming that Beach has been able to persuade southern consumers to visit the Territories, but said 78 per cent of visitors are Canadians.
“Since our largest market is Canada, we immediately reach out to potential travelers through Adam,” he said. “Let’s not forget that his star power has generated him many fans, not just through Arctic Air. He has starred in some pretty amazing Hollywood movies such as Flag of Our Fathers for which he was nominated for an Oscar.”
Beach isn’t the only one waving the NWT flag, Desjardins said, pointing to the appearances of Mikey McBryan and musician Leela Gilday with Beach at an event Tourism NWT hosted in Vancouver on Canada Day last summer.
McBryan, who hosted the annual Tourism meeting in Yellowknife last weekend, welcomed Beach to the ranks of celebrities who promote the Territories, referring to him in a recent interview as “my brother on TV.”
Debogorski was downright hostile. In a column that he writes occasionally for a Yellowknife newspaper, the trucker said that NWT Tourism “looks like they are part of the ‘Spectacular’ department of silliness as they attempt to promote the North with a temporary import who gets paid to pretend.”
Instead, said Debogorski, some of Tourism NWT’s $2 million annual advertising budget should be tossed to him, or Buffalo Joe McBryan.