The “Stay Away” anti-campaign

The capital of the Netherlands has launched a digital campaign to discourage young Britons, between the ages of 18 and 35, from visiting the city solely “Just” for partying, which often results in excessive drinking and the consequent destruction of public furniture. The campaign also targets those who also visit the famous "red light district."

24 May 2023

It is expected that marketing strategies will be designed and implemented to attract visitors to various cities worldwide. However, not all tourists are the same, and this appears to be the situation in Amsterdam. The city has made the decision to launch an anti-campaign aimed at deterring young English travelers from visiting its territory.

To achieve this, the city has developed a geographically segmented digital campaign aimed at reaching individuals who are seeking to have a chaotic weekend in Amsterdam. Operating under the slogan “Stay Away,” the Dutch authorities are utilizing this campaign to counter the trend that has tested the patience of its residents. The message is specifically directed towards those who are the primary source of frustration.

Central to this campaign are the videos circulating on social networks, which serve as warnings that Amsterdam is no longer the ideal destination for celebrating bachelor parties or engaging in other types of wild events.

Out of the 20 million tourists that Amsterdam receives every year, one million of them are English tourists, many of whom choose the city for its liberal laws on drug use and the well-known “red light district.”

Digital strategy: The online ad campaign is initially targeted at British men aged 18-35 and consists of a series of short videos depicting nights out that didn’t go as planned. These 30-second clips are accompanied by ominous music and police sirens.

The first video starts with a bottle crashing to the ground. A young male actor is shown, appearing drunk, stumbling around, and cursing at the police, who quickly handcuff him.“He sits in a cell, despondently cradling his head,” “thinking of” his actions. Was it worth the ten extra Jagerbombs (liquor)? Probably not.

In another video, a well-dressed but intoxicated young man is shown passing out on a park bench. A concerned bystander attempts to wake him up, and paramedics quickly arrive at the scene. The excessive partying tourist is then rushed to the hospital, where worried doctors gather. In the audiovisual pieces, he asks himself, “Are you coming to Amsterdam to have a chaotic night, get fined €140, and end up with a criminal record?” The videos conclude with a strong message: “Stay away.”

The digital campaign is activated when people in Britain search for terms such as “stag party Amsterdam,” “cheap hotel Amsterdam,” and “pub crawl Amsterdam” on search engines. It is at that moment they encounter the warning video ads that depict the risks and consequences associated with excessive alcohol and drug use. The ads highlight potential outcomes such as fines, a criminal record, hospitalization, and long-term damage to health.

In a controversial move, Marco Lemmers, the chief executive of Conscious Hotels, expressed his preference for a positive Swiss-style campaign. “You could humorously demonstrate the potential consequences of certain behaviors without showing everyone who visits for a bachelor party as a criminal!” he stated in an interview with The Guardian. He further questioned whether Amsterdam had considered the potential collateral damage for the Netherlands as a whole, drawing attention to the actions of Dutch tourists on the Costa Brava in Spain.

However, the stance of the authorities is completely different, “Visitors are still welcome, but not if they engage in misconduct and become a nuisance. As a city, we are sending a clear message: it’s better, stay away,” explained Deputy Mayor Sofyan Mbarki in an interview with the BBC.

Kick-off: It all began when the Amsterdam municipality adopted the Visitor Economy Vision 2035 along with a set of measures to address issues of over tourism and disturbance. Several of these measures were implemented this spring following discussions in the city council, including stricter closing hours, a smoking ban, and restricted alcohol sales in specific areas.

Local authorities have also engaged in discussions with stag party organizers operating in the city center, aiming to find solutions that minimize the inconvenience caused to residents by tourists.

The second phase of the campaign launches in May, with the city targeting visitors who are already present. Information is disseminated through social networks and warning signs placed on the streets, emphasizing the prohibition of public urination, excessive drunkenness, disruptive noises, and purchasing drugs from street dealers. Additionally, hotels have LCD screens in their lobbies displaying such information, while official announcements are directed towards visitors on the streets.