Travelocity, the online travel agent bought by Expedia for $280 million in 2015, has chosen Havas and Proof Advertising as its media and creative agencies of record, respectively, following a review that kicked off sometime around April.
Austin, Texas-based independent shop Proof will handle all creative and strategic duties for the brand after beating out four "huge agencies" in the final round of the pitch, including incumbent Interpublic Group of Cos.' Campbell Ewald, according to Laura Molnar, head of brand marketing for Expedia. She told Ad Age that all media responsibilities were handed to Havas, which is also the AOR for Travelocity sister company Orbitz.
A Havas spokeswoman said Travelocity will be managed by Havas-owned Arena Media Agency in Chicago.
Campbell Ewald, which did not return a request for comment, was awarded lead creative duties in 2015, ending Travelocity's partnership with McKinney, the agency that created the brand's trusty roaming-gnome mascot in 2003.
Assembly was handed Travelocity's media account in 2015 but Molnar said the company consolidated all of its advertising duties with Campbell Ewald sometime last year.
"Campbell Ewald has been a fantastic partner," Molnar said. "But the brand is going to be taking a risk in the coming year and we wanted a partner who could take a fresh look at the category and bring in really unique advertising."
That risk, she said, will be a new product that Travelocity expects to debut in a campaign from Proof in March 2020. Molnar declined to provide further details on the product. The campaign is expected to span TV, digital, social and experiential.
"Travelocity started the entire online-travel-agency category, but has found itself battling a category of 'me too' brands,” Proof CEO Bryan Christian added. "The brand has great things in the works from a product offering perspective, and we’re eager to put our strategic and creative talents to work on helping them fully capitalize on their new direction and once again stand out far above the pack."
Molnar said Proof officially started on the account on July 1 and Havas is set to take over media duties on Sept. 1, at which time the brand will no longer work with Campbell Ewald.
"Our brand voice is friendly and authentic and all of the people who work here are too," Molnar said, explaining what drew Travelocity to Proof in particular. "We wanted to have an agency that had that as well in their blood. And that when you went there, you saw people are happy. Proof by far was that way."
She said it helped that Travelocity's Dallas headquarters are in close proximity to Proof's base in Austin.
According to Kantar Media estimates, Travelocity spent $43 million on measured media in the U.S. in 2018, down from $125 million in 2017.
Molnar did not confirm those numbers but did say the brand has decreased its budget. "That is a fact," she said, "we're expected to do more with less."
The most recognizable creative that came from Campbell Ewald was probably Travelocity's "Wander Wisely" tagline. That campaign debuted in 2016, one year after the agency was hired, and focused on the unique destinations where travelers can go, with the gnome offering words of wisdom: "Be your own guide."
Molnar added that the gnome isn't going anywhere.