Travelocity's "Roaming Gnome" Phones Home

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The gnome phones home.
After teasing consumers with a viral website, wild postings and a fake news report planted in one of the Rose Bowl's commercial breaks, Travelocity finally lets us hear from its "Roaming Gnome" in new spots that break today from Raleigh-based agency McKinney + Silver. The campaign -- the first since McKinney won the account in October -- began quietly in early December with a website, www.wheresmygnome.com, seemingly posted by a man named Bill who is trying to recover his stolen garden gnome. The site was followed by the appearance of apparently homemade signs, also seeking the return of the gnome. The fanciful campaign taps into the long-running -- and apparently global -- fad of swiping garden gnomes and taking them on the road. Such gnome-napping was dramatized in the 2001 French film Amelie, but has been going on for years.

McKinney + Silver executive creative director David Baldwin says the effort is an attempt to create a personality for Travelocity, which once dominated the online travel category, but now faces competition from Expedia.com and Orbitz.com. "They [Travelocity] really have been building the superior product," says Baldwin. "But as the category has become commoditized, no one has any emotional attachment to any of them. We just wanted people to like Travelocity better than the others." The two payoff spots stay true to the prank that inspired them by showing snapshots of the vanished gnome as he travels the world, courtesy of Travelocity.

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