The roaming gnome needs a traveling companion, and he's got his unblinking eye on you.
Travelocity's iconic mascot, whimsically voiced as ever by Harry Enfield, returns this week in a flight of ads themed "Wish You Were Here." The work is the Expedia-owned brand's first campaign from Proof Advertising, which supplanted Campbell Ewald as lead creative agency following a review last summer.
Retaining the tag "Wander Wisely," the new spots find the gnome touting perks of free Travelocity membership.
"While he has always been an integral part of the ads, he has usually accompanied travelers on their journey," Laura Molnar, the company's senior manager of brand marketing, tells Muse. "This year, he is demonstrating just how much better travel can be when you join Travelocity. He is encouraging travelers to hurry up and join so they too can enjoy the journey with him."
Predictably, antics ensue, as the little guy's wanderlust leads him into situations where he craves company. After all, it's no fun dining on puttanesca alone…
…and kayaking poses problems when you can't remove your hands from your pockets:
Maybe he should try something less dangerous—like gardening, or a ceramics class.
Molnar says the work target families who are "seeking convenience, quality at a great price and a partner that will help them every step of the way, all of which Travelocity strives to provide."
Zip-lines, swan floats and sandcastles play into the gnome's adventures in the brief spots below:
Wondros director Sean Thonson shot the ads in Panama, "which offered very distinct location backdrops and an oddly generic-looking downtown skyline that worked perfectly to represent world travel," says Proof executive creative director Craig Mikes.
"Aside from our inanimate gnome, this campaign used no talent or on-camera principals—even the roaming gnome's voice was added in post," Mikes says. "So, we wanted the best location shooter we could get who could help us manage a variety of different looks." Thonson's category experience, which includes British Columbia tourism spots, fit the bill.
Working with Travelocity's wee star presented special challenges.
"He can't move, basically can't do anything physical," Mikes says. "So, we wanted to find inventive ways to keep him moving that added more action to the scenes. Putting him in a kayak, on a zipline and in a pool float gave us the physical action we wanted on film. And when he was forced to be still, we made sure to keep the camera moving."
Thonson's crew steered the gnome using clear fishing line, with handlers just outside the frame wielding rods and reels. "As luck would have it, the roaming gnome broke free of his restraints and accidentally went over a waterfall in his kayak," Mikes recalls. (Where's a stunt gnome when you need one?) Understandably, that footage was left on the cutting-room floor.
"Wish You Were Here" marks the brand's first big ad push since 2018, and comes at a time when the travel industry faces uncertainty due to growing coronavirus fears.
"Traveler safety is a top priority for us, and it's important that we continue to let our customers know that we are here for them, and ready to help them take that trip when they are ready," Molnar says.
See more new spots on YouTube.
Meanwhile, Travelocity parent Expedia is going through changes of its own, including recent job cuts amid mixed financial performances as chairman Barry Diller and vice chairman Peter Kern take over day-to-day operations.
Campaign: "Wish You Were Here"
Agency: Proof Advertising
Executive Creative Director: Craig Mikes
Art Director: Lane Jordan
Copywriter: Claire Jordan
Producer: Amy Hurt
Group Account Director: Dionne Estabrook
Account Supervisor: Blair Williams
Senior Strategist: Deb Freeman
Director: Sean Thonson
Production Company: Wondros
Editorial: Union Editorial
Audio: Digital Domain
Finish: Finland Finish