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McNeil Wilson Communications

McNeil Wilson Communications is proud to have worked with some of the best companies in Hawaii and beyond. See what we have done and what we are capable of doing for you.

Hawaii: As Seen on TV Campaign

1003 Bishop Street
Pauahi Tower, 9th Floor
Honolulu, HI 96813
T 808.531.0244
F 808.521.7163

McNeil Wilson Communications, Inc

A major initiative of McNeil Wilson (MWC) is to secure opportunities to embed Hawaii’s brand messaging in popular national network and cable television shows that match profiles with Hawaii’s target avid travelers. The agency is retained to handle destination brand PR in North America for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB), the State of Hawaii’s tourism marketing agency.

In 2011, using research provided by HVCB’s advertising buyer OMD, MWC mapped out a strategy targeting television shows on cable networks that appeal to Hawaii’s target visitors. This information is proprietary and not included in this entry submission. However, the top cable networks for Hawaii’s target audience included Food Network, Cooking Channel, Discovery Channel, TLC, and all major networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC). If the networks were strong enough for HVCB to consider purchasing paid media on them, they were certainly strong enough for the public relations team to pursue programming.

The bull’s eye of HVCB’s marketing efforts is the avid traveler who enjoys a higher disposable income and tends to spend more money on vacation, indulging in all aspects of a destination and enjoying a longer than average length of stay. As highly experiential and discriminating consumers, these seasoned travelers index high in seeking unique travel experiences.

Television, with its sight and sound combo, is the perfect medium to reach this audience and tell Hawaii’s story in-depth in ways other mediums cannot. These programs are often rebroadcast reaching repeat and new viewers many times over, and often include clips viewable online as well. This type of embedded content delivers powerful information about the lure of Hawaii that far outperforms what can be achieved in a :30 second TV commercial spot.

MWC presented HVCB a revised plan in 2010 focused on intensifying its effort to securing quality television programming. Named the “Hawaii: As Seen on TV” PR campaign, the initiative identified and targeted the hottest and most popular television shows for 2011, included Cooking Channel’s “Food(ography)” and “Eat Street,” Food Network’s “Chef Hunter,” and ABC’s “Cougar Town.”

HVCB approved the initiative and MWC began its pro-active outreach to show producers by “cold calling” and pitching ideas for Hawaii themed episodes. The strategy paid off as many producers had no intention of including Hawaii in their production plans and accepted HVCB’s offer for production assistance to film in the islands. Part of MWC’s “sell” to the producers was that the Hawaii locale would add a measure of exotic appeal and likely entice new viewers to the show. Additionally, HVCB offered to provide financial assistance to these productions to offset expenses related to travel and filming in Hawaii.


  1. Secure the top-rated programs on targeted networks
  2. Present travelers with more reasons to visit Hawaii by showcasing unique and unexpected aspects of Hawaii as a vacation destination
  3. Introduce elements to enhance Hawaii’s appeal beyond the typical of sun, sand, and surf destinations

Keep out-of-pocket costs down for HVCB and TV productions by bringing in Hawaii travel partners to offset production expenses in exchange for inclusion/promotional consideration in the shows

Target Audiences:
Consumers (avid traveler)

MWC directed a collaborative effort with show producers on behalf of HVCB that involved assistance with HVCB’s Island Chapter counterparts and recruiting other industry partners including airlines, hotels, activities, attractions, restaurants, local celebrities, and cultural specialists who provided discounted and in-kind services for exposure within the program. Each show was developed to gain maximum exposure for Hawaii within the episodes showcasing the destination’s beauty and culture, lifestyle, cuisine, and vacation attributes. MWC negotiated financial assistance with producers to help offset production costs, including airfare, hotel accommodations, ground transportation, activities, and equipment shipping logistics. From there, MWC worked closely with producers tailoring its assistance to the needs/style of each show as follows:

“Cougar Town” Hawai‘i Season Finale (ABC)
– MWC assisted the production in finding an Oahu hotel partner to serve as the “set” in February 2011. MWC contacted Turtle Bay Resort, a beachfront property on the North Shore, who agreed to partner. Show also needed airfare help from the mainland to Hawaii for its crew of 100, which HVCB supported. The Result: One-hour season finale airing on May 25, 2011, showcasing the entire cast in Hawaii, its golf courses, and water-based activities on the island, including stand up paddle boarding. The show also got significant publicity in the entertainment trades.

“Food(ography)” – Hawaii Episode (Cooking Channel)
– MWC worked with producers to identify unique experiences for host Mo Rocca on Oahu and Hawaii, the Big Island. MWC worked with the Waikiki EDITION to host the production during its Oahu shoot, and the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel on the Hawaii Island portion. The show nailed it by visiting nearly a dozen eateries and interviewing some of the top “farm to fork” chefs in the state. The Result: One-hour Hawaii showcase of all things food, highlighting the evolving culinary landscape in the islands. The show has also repeated twice.

“Eat Street” (Cooking Channel) – Hawaii’s food truck scene boomed in 2011 and MWC worked with producers of Eat Street to bring the show to Oahu. The crew of three visited in June 2011 visiting four (4) food trucks: Camille’s on Wheels, Flip’t Out Eats, Opal Thai, and Soul Patrol. The goal was to showcase the range of cuisine being served up here in the islands from local plate lunches, to Filipino, Southern, and Thai. The Result: Hawaii’s food trucks were included in four different episodes in November and December 2011. According to the Eat Street website, the episodes will re-air in May and June 2012.

“Chef Hunter” (Food Network)
– Chef recruiter Carrie McCully came to Kauai to help chefs and restaurant owners Peter Merriman and Neil Murphy find a new executive chef for Merriman’s Fish House. After negotiations with the show’s producer, which included guarantees of showcasing Hawaii’s “farm to table” efforts and unique regional cooking style, HVCB supported the production by covering air, hotel, and ground transportation for the duration of the shoot in August 2011. The Result: A one-hour, nail-biting episode with two chefs competing for their dream job. Along they way, Merriman and Murphy describe their passion for fresh locally grown, fresh products on the menu which is seen in the final results. The show has also repeated a second time.

All objectives for this program were met. Top-rated programs on key networks were secured. The content and messaging within these shows were different from other Hawaii shows on the network in the past, covering aspects of the destination well beyond sun, sand, and surf. The team was also able to keep within the budget, while leveraging relationships with the industry to offset production costs. MWC was able to leverage its campaign budget with the help of the hospitality industry who contributed more than $300,000 of in-kind contributions.

These four shows reached a combined audience of more than 10 million viewers across the country through more than eight (8) hours of television exposure (based on original airings and repeats of shows). The ad equivalency of eight (8) hours of airtime is valued at more than $10 million (based on the average cost of a :30 second commercial spot on each network).

These results far exceeded the airtime or exposure any TV advertising campaign could have achieved and enabled Hawai‘i to be featured “beyond the surface” giving consumers and potential travelers a new and deeper perspective on the destination.