Shortlisted 2023

Travel & Tourism


Abu Dhabi Tourism

Entered by:

BBC StoryWorks

Abu Dhabi Unwrapped: A Sonic Travel Guide


Fresh Air, Spark Foundry - ME

The Challenge

Abu Dhabi Tourism partnered with BBC StoryWorks to embark on an inspiring journey through the Abu Dhabi Unwrapped: A Sonic Travel Guide podcast campaign. The goal was to unveil the hidden treasures and cultural richness of Abu Dhabi, captivating a curious global traveller audience and positioning the city as a must-visit destination.

The primary objective of this campaign was to challenge misconceptions about Abu Dhabi and showcase its diverse offerings beyond traditional perceptions, encouraging international travellers to discover Abu Dhabi for themselves.

Abu Dhabi Tourism wanted to shift the narrative from Abu Dhabi as a mere luxury destination to a culturally immersive experience, highlighting its vibrant art scene, gastronomic delights, historical landmarks, and sustainable initiatives. As a result, the campaign needed to engage a wide variety of international audiences and travel personas in order to contribute to the growth and reputation of Abu Dhabi as a desirable destination.

Another key challenge was to represent the diversity and multiplicity of Abu Dhabi. The UAE as a whole is an incredibly diverse destination, with a majority 90% expat population, and this diversity plays a pivotal role in creating Abu Dhabi’s cultural identity.

Reflecting this diversity, alongside Abu Dhabi’s unique blend of tradition and modernity, was crucial – to promote the fact that so many people from different and wonderful backgrounds call Abu Dhabi home, and in turn represent the voices of the emirate’s future, as well as its past.

The Content Solution

BBC StoryWorks produced the Abu Dhabi Unwrapped: A Sonic Travel Guide podcast series as the perfect expression of old meets new, offering authentic travel tips and insight into the emirate’s history and traditions.

The series takes listeners on a sonic journey through the weird and wonderful experiences that define Abu Dhabi, and positions it as an exciting destination for our curious travel audience to explore.

This content speaks to a broad array of travel personas – the adventurers, the families, the culturally curious, the history buffs, the aspirational – as our host Dina Butti (Abu Dhabi expat local and broadcast presenter) relays tales of Abu Dhabi through local stories with a global perspective.

We embark on an immersive journey around Abu Dhabi, as the soundscapes locate us in each new place. Recorded on location, each episode takes the form of a literal journey as the host takes the listener with them over the course of a day, and features 25 local guests including artists, chefs, tour guides, business owners, reporters and more. This exploration of a specific aspect of the emirate lends a natural progression and story-arc to each episode, as the host tries out some jaw-dropping activities and experiences.

The series is made up of five episodes, each one lasting roughly 20 minutes, on the themes of Culture and Heritage, Family Fun, Luxury Life, Action and Adventure, and Cuisine, highlighting the message that Abu Dhabi is a destination for every kind of traveller.

The strength of the content lies in its captivating storytelling, as the narrative literally weaves through the city’s unique blend of tradition and modernity. Each episode delves into a different aspect of Abu Dhabi’s cultural tapestry, offering listeners an immersive and enlightening sonic experience.

The success of the podcast lies in its ability to shift perceptions. This delivers on the brief by bridging the consideration gap of Abu Dhabi as an authentic, luxurious destination open to everyone.

This new audio format for BBC StoryWorks allowed us to diversify our story-telling capabilities and target the mature, audio-savvy generation. The first-of-its-kind podcast series takes listeners on a sonic tour of Abu Dhabi that spotlights the rich heritage, cultural identity and modern diversity of the emirate.

The Media/Content Amplification Solution

The success of Abu Dhabi Unwrapped: A Sonic Travel Guide hinged upon a robust media and content amplification strategy. Through a multi-channel approach, BBC StoryWorks ensured the podcast series generated widespread interest in Abu Dhabi as a cultural tourism destination.

We harnessed the BBC’s trusted reputation to quickly build a global audience for the podcast, with the series found on all major listening platforms. This accessibility allowed listeners to discover and engage with the series at their convenience, with audiences primarily directed to podcast platforms for the best user experience.

Promotion was an important consideration from the very start of the production process. Quality audience engagement with five, 25-minute episodes is a big ask, however we wanted to do all we could to achieve this.

As a result, BBC StoryWorks worked closely with our social and reporting teams and also engaged external branded content podcast experts, Fresh Air, based here in London, to assist us with planning. Promotional routes included social media on BBC StoryWorks, client, host and guest channels; BBC on-site traffic drivers and promo units; 30-sec audio ads in pre/post-roll slots within BBC and external podcasts; a bespoke social campaign across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter; and ads running on Spotify and Castbox.

Furthermore, custom photography captured during the podcast recordings allowed us to create a stunning visual component to the campaign. This supporting visual content was then used as part of the BBC landing page and in series promotional traffic drivers across contextually relevant sections of

Throughout the six-month campaign, we also enacted weekly data-driven optimisations to our amplification strategy across all platforms. Key performance indicators were closely monitored and analysed to ensure maximum impact and return on investment.

In addition, our collaboration with Dina Butti as a prominent, passionate industry influencer further helped to create buzz around the Abu Dhabi Unwrapped podcast series. The campaign was able to tap into the influencer’s existing audience and expand its reach organically, enhancing its visibility and driving engagement and listenership.

Lastly, the podcast was housed on a redesigned branded content hub, as part of the wider Abu Dhabi Unwrapped campaign. This is a shining example of how BBC StoryWorks can build narratives over extended time periods of time, with film, articles, bespoke photography and now audio all packaged in one digital environment.

The Result

The Abu Dhabi Unwrapped podcast campaign delivered outstanding results, achieving its objectives and resonating with its target audience, and is testament to the internal and external collaboration between BBC StoryWorks and producers in BBC Sounds.

Since its launch, the campaign has achieved 1,090,000 minutes listened (218% over goal), 114,913 downloads (426% over goal), 26,000 subscribers (520% over goal) and 155,442 page views (536$ over goal) across the campaign hub and podcast landing pages. The series was also in the Top 5-10% of downloads across Society and Culture podcasts worldwide.

Furthermore, the podcast achieved 5,400 downloads per episode within first 30 days (putting the series in the top 5% of all podcasts available worldwide), a 56% listen-through rate, and a 4/5 star review average rating.

This has been a remarkable achievement for the team, who worked collaboratively and effectively to deliver excellent results for the client and producing an innovative audio series that engages audiences through the power of sound.

Abu Dhabi Unwrapped: A Sonic Travel Guide broke new ground for the BBC in destination marketing and engaged audiences through immersive audio experiences. The subject matter spoke to a need for longform storytelling and the success of the podcast proved that the medium was the right platform for this content to thrive.

The campaign challenged preconceived notions and positioning the city as a cultural gem worth exploring. This sonic journey revealed the city’s authentic character, creating a lasting impression on listeners and positioning Abu Dhabi as a must-visit destination for our curious global traveller enthusiasts worldwide.