Flight Centre gets out of its comfort zone with its new campaign, ‘Be Unbordered’

Who: Flight Centre and Cossette.

What: “Be Unbordered,” the travel booking company’s first brand campaign in more than 20 years.

When & Where: The integrated campaign launched Sept. 23 and will run through March 22. In addition to TV and online video spots directed by Oscar winner Joachim Back, the campaign includes street car wraps in Toronto and “key” billboard placements in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.

Why: The campaign is intended to demonstrate how Flight Centre staff—known internally as “Flighties”—bring vast personal experience that is “sorely lacking in a market dominated by algorithms and self-serve booking.”

The mentality of travellers is changing, with people increasingly seeking more unique and authentic experiences instead of the traditional bucket list, says Gavin Miller, vice-president of retail operations with Flight Centre.

Peter Ignazi, Cossette’s global chief creative officer, describes the spot as a “rallying cry” for travellers looking to escape the same old travel routine. “People can be reluctant to trust the travel planning and booking to anyone but themselves, but with more and more people hungry for travel off the beaten path, Flight Centre agents bring a wealth of experience and passion for travel that can help travellers ‘Be Unbordered,'” he says.

How: The 90-second anthem spot (there are also :30 and :15 cutdowns) follows a couple as they embark on a vacation completely devoid of spontaneity and fun. There is the inescapable sound of Tiny Tim’s “Tip Toe Thru’ the Tulips With Me,” however.

Along the way, the couple are constantly reminded of the artificiality of their experience, with plastic-looking hotel staff advising them to “please stay within your comfort zone.” The spot ends with the couple discovering a way to escape their Truman Show-esque experience, breaking through a wall that (presumably) opens onto their ideal vacation.

The aesthetic is one of artificial jolliness. The wardrobe was custom-created to be completely monotone, while actors were also provided with custom teeth, blue contact lenses and hair and make-up treatments that make them look “manufactured.”

The colour transfer also enhanced the effect, brightening eyes and teeth and making skin look glossier. Back also directed actors to be “more robotic and mechanical” to contribute to the spot’s overall feel.

How and why was Joachim Back selected for this project?  Back, who won a 2010 Academy Award in the Live Action Short Film category for The New Tenants, was selected because of his knack for creating worlds, says Ignazi.

“He had a very clear vision for the film from the beginning, wanting it to feel familiar yet uncomfortable for the viewer,” says Ignazi. “His previous work speaks for itself, proving that Joachim is a very strong storyteller, placing equal importance on both performance and art direction.”

Odds and ends: Some notable facts from the shoot:

  • Flight Centre booked all travel for the shoot, which included a beer-themed spa hotel in Slovenia;

  • On the final day of production, the wardrobe department gifted Flight Centre’s Gavin Miller with a custom powder blue suit inspired by the costumes in the commercial. Miller wore the suit when he presented the film to the Flight Centre team;

  • To keep everyone in character while on set, Back played the 1950s hit “Mr. Sandman” full blast on a loop between takes;

  • Despite the spot’s beautiful sunny look, most of the shoot days were quite cold, requiring talent to cover up with coats and blankets between takes.

And we quote: “Travel is powerful and has the ability to change our world for good. We hope to inspire Canadians to tap into their adventurous spirit and to get out of their comfort zones by experiencing our incredible world one unbordered moment at a time.”—Gavin Miller, vice-president of retail operations with Flight Centre Travel Group.

Chris Powell