Sandwiched between Turkey and Russia, the Republic of Georgia recently greeted its 6 millionth tourist (per the nation’s best estimate, at least) with a surprise VIP experience that included dinner with the prime minister.
The lucky winner was Jesper Black, a Dutch traveler who flew into the capital of Tbilisi to visit friends living there. He had planned to explore the city by day and spend time with his friends at night. From the moment he checked in at customs, however, things took a surprising turn. Here’s a case study video of how it went down:
As always with campaigns like this, one would be justified in asking if this surprise was really on the level. As one sarcastic YouTube commenter says, “I have absolutely, 100 percent, no doubt in my mind at all that this was a legitimate surprise for that ‘lucky’ guy.”
We were equally skeptical, so we talked to the agency behind the campaign: Windfor’s. Creative chairman Vato Kavtaradze said “with pure heart” that the stunt was all very real, with a few slight nudges in terms of how Black was selected.
“Believe it or not there is practically nothing that is not real in this video. The guy is absolutely unaware what is going on, and right until meeting with the PM, he thinks that it’s his host-friend’s surprise arrangement,” Kavtaradze said. “We had several development plans regarding the candidate passengers of the plane, which by approximate calculations was carrying that lucky guest on its board. We worked hard with customs office and corresponding state services.”
In other words, he may not have exactly been the 6 millionth visitor, but they narrowed it down to his flight and then selected someone who seemed like a good pick.
We also reached out to Black himself to learn more details:
“Let me start by saying that I am very much a ‘real person,’ and not a hired gun, as some people suggest,” Black told Adweek via email. “I came to visit my friend, but clearly that went a little different than planned. I literally had zero idea of what was going on. This was all just one big surprise. And it didn’t make really sense in my head up until the point where the prime minister told me that I was tourist number 6 million. Up until that point, I thought that everything—the big Mercedes (waiting at the airport), the billboard, the camera crew—was the work of my friend. I just kept thinking, ‘What did I miss that she is able to arrange all this?’”
While Black may not have been strategically selected in advance by Georgian tourism officials, he’s definitely the ideal candidate for such a bold effort.
Currently living in Barcelona, the 30-year-old Netherlands native is a lifelong traveler who studied journalism but settled into a customer service job after moving to Spain. He began creating annual video roundups of his travels and, about six months ago, decided to start documenting his experiences more frequently on YouTube.
“My channel is very small, and I’ve always made my movies for myself, as a memory of my wonderful travel days,” he said. “My videos had around a 100 views or so, and after the Georgia thing happened, my channel grew quite a lot—well, relative to its size. I gained around a thousand new subscribers overnight. Hopefully, someday I can make a living out of doing the two things in life I love the most: traveling and creating.”
If you’re wondering whether it would be creepy to be picked up by a stone-faced driver and taken to an unknown destination—well, even Black admits the answer is yes.
Arriving at the airport and expecting to be picked up by a friend, Black instead found “a man in a black suit with a piece of paper with my name on it,” and he’s taken to a black Mercedes S-Class sedan.
“I have this tiny conversation in my head,” Black says in his own video recap, “‘If they’re going to steal my organs, would they use a Mercedes S-Class?’ And I’m like, ‘No, I don’t think so.’ So I get in the car without any question.”
Admitting he was “a little uncomfortable,” Black decided to just go with it, and he soon found himself surrounded by a police escort and being taken to dinner with Georgia Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili. As you can see in the video below, his bafflement was quite genuine.
“There’s this massive billboard with my picture on it,” Black recounts, “and it says ‘He has arrived.’ I’m like, ‘What?’ My tiny little brain cannot comprehend what’s going on.”
Black’s meal with the prime minister had another interesting bit of backstory: the agency created a website for Georgians to vote on which of the nation’s dishes should be served to the 6 millionth tourist. You can see the results in the case study video above.
Here are some more videos Black posted from his surprisingly incredible visit to Georgia:
And here he answers some questions from viewers, including, “Are you an actor?” As you can guess from his comments to Adweek above, the answer is no, but he does tell some fun behind-the-scenes stories of how it all went down.