Away's Holiday Ads Capture the Surreal Nature of Pandemic Travel

Robert Beatty's weird illustrations for a weird year

It's been a surreal year. And to cap it off, luggage maker Away is making surreal holiday ads to match—getting Robert Beatty, an artist known for designing trippy album covers, to illustrate the weirdness of travel in Covid times.

Beatty, whose album art has included Rainbow by Kesha and Oczy Mlody by The Flaming Lips, has created 15 trippy illustrations Away will use in a holiday campaign across social, web and retail. 

"The otherworldliness of the campaign imagery evokes the surrealistic, sci-fi-like experience of traveling amid a pandemic, while providing a much-needed sense of escapism from the harsh realities of 2020 holiday travel," the brand said in a statement.

Check out some of the images below.

"As a brand that touches both retail and travel industries, we knew this holiday season was going to be very different from any we've experienced before," Selena Kalvaria, Away's chief marketing officer, tells Muse. "When first planning our creative campaign, we wanted to react to the harsh realities of 2020 while also providing a sense of escapism and optimism to our community." 

During creative brainstorming, the team kept coming back to the acknowledgment that "travel this year is weird," Kalvaria says.

"From there, we played with how that 'weirdness' can come to life as a backdrop for the role Away could play in helping our community travel safely and thoughtfully," she says. "We ultimately landed on a concept that aimed to evoke the surrealist and strange experience of traveling during the pandemic while showing how Away will continue to support our community as they take these journeys."

They engaged Beatty for his unique style, which Tim Roan, Away's executive creative director, described as "trippy and mystifying, somewhere between an amazing album cover and the effects of a small dose of psychedelics."

They also gave him quite a bit of freedom on the project.

"We didn't want to constrain him or treat him as just a pair of hands, so we kept our brief very simple," Roan says. "Our guidelines were basically to deliver us a sense of the travel experiences we all recognize, blended with the absurd and unusual. And he nailed it."

The illustrations and animations will come to life across the brand's web, social, email and retail channels. 

"On social specifically, our copy will lean into the weirdness of the imagery, highlighting that this holiday season may be strange, but it needs to be strange in order for us to navigate as safely as possible," Kalvaria says. "Our messaging will also continue to highlight that at Away, we're always on the side of the traveler and this season will be no different. We'll be there through the good, the bad and the weird. If we travel responsibly, together, we can all get through this."

Roan—a former Lyft ECD who previously worked at Wieden + Kennedy—says you might eventually encounter the work in an even more unexpected media channel. "I'm considering getting a tattoo," he admits.

See some of the animations below.

Away holiday animation 1
Away holiday animation 2
Away holiday animation 3
Away holiday animation 4
Away holiday animation 5
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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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