Travelocity: 2005 Gold Effie Award Winning Case Study

December 7, 2005


In late 2003, Travelocity decided to launch an aggressive new advertising push, but they faced the reality of being significantly outspent in the marketplace. The "Roaming Gnome" campaign, featuring an out of the ordinary icon, combined with a strong client/agency partnership worked to outsmart vs. outspend the competition; resulting in returning the Travelocity brand to prominence. As a result, the 2004 site visits were +35% ahead of 2003 and +16% above plan. Travelocity made a dramatic swing into the black and they booked record results for the first five months of 2005.


To own the "great travel experience" from beginning to end and be an "advocate" for this experience. The company was suffering share declines; there was an urgent need to turn this around.


Chief competitor, Expedia, spent three times what Travelocity did and had significantly more unaided awareness. Enterprise spent one third of revenue on marketing; as a result finance owned model/spend.

Best Practices

  • Procurement and finance were involved early on in the process. Procurement had insight into the economic value of creativity and understood the difference between buying commodities and buying creativity (i.e. looked at ideas versus FTE, blend rate, etc.)
  • The agency/client relationship was the backbone of this campaign being successful. The client took the agency relationship chemistry extremely seriously. As a result, it gave the agency leverage to experiment with the creative aspect.

Agency Compensation and Relations

  • Agency's compensation built directly into the success of the campaign. Agency was able to show quantitative proof that creativity worked.
  • Agency's belief in incentive based compensation gave client faith that the creative (the "Roaming Gnome") was not just a far fetched idea.
  • Agency relationship built on early involvement with procurement, building strong personal relationships and applying structures. The structures established between agency/client precipitated any misinterpretations down the road (i.e. everyone involved with the client was on the same page from the beginning).

Campaign Highlights

  • On a minimal budget, turned "Roaming Gnome" into an iconic figure. Plaster figures traveled the globe with willing participants. People took photos with the gnome and sent him in. Outlandish broadcast ads garnered high recall.
  • First week exceeded goals by 34% in first week. Surpassed hits and booking goals.
  • Closed unaided awareness gap with competition.
  • In 2005, won two EFFIE Awards: Gold and Silver in Retail/E-tail and Travel/Tourism categories

Launched Consumer Guarantee

Took a customer insight and turned it into a competitive edge that they could market extensively. The client took a year and a half to launch the project because they wanted to make sure it was sound and every touch point reflected it properly. The publicized launch of the new Travelocity Guarantee (if you booked with them, the room you wanted would be there) doubled site visits in a six month period and more than doubled transactions made on the site.


"Travelocity: 2005 Gold Effie Award Winning Case Study." Brad Brinegar, President and CEO, McKinney. Advertising Financial Management Committee Meeting, 12/07/05.