WestJet debuts first brand spot since start of the pandemic

***NOTE: Shortly after launching this campaign WestJet withdrew it. WestJet said it was “made aware of information about the video that has caused us concerns.” It declined to elaborate on what that information was.***


Who: WestJet, with Rethink for creative and Media Experts for media.

What: “Victoria,” the first brand advertising for the airline since before the pandemic, which has hit air travel extremely hard.

When & Where: The ad debuted Thursday, running as a :60 and a :30, on TV and online for six weeks.

Why: With COVID numbers going down as vaccinations go up, interest in air travel is also on the rise, meaning that WestJet felt it was time to reconnect with air travellers. “For obvious reasons we’ve been quiet from a brand marketing standpoint since the onset of the pandemic, so this would be what we consider our first major brand campaign,” said WestJet’s director of marketing communications, Rob Daintree.

The airline has created other functional communications about safety and travel tips during COVID, for example, and there was a Christmas ad. “But from a brand communications perspective, this is our first major moment since the fall of 2019.”

How: “Victoria” opens with an older man getting what is evidently his second vaccination, and the healthcare worker giving the shot asks him what’s next. “First thing I’m going to do is fly to Victoria,” he says.

The rest of the ad shows him making preparations, arriving at the airport and boarding the plane to Victoria. The heartwarming twist comes when he tells the flight attendant—his voice quivering with emotion—that he’s travelling to Toronto to meet his granddaughter Victoria for the first time.

The brand tagline “Love where you are going,” appears on screen for a moment, followed by the word “Again” to close the spot.

The idea is grounded in WestJet’s core brand attribute of care for its customers, said Daintree. “We know that is one of our key differentiators in our category,” he said. As is usually the case, the WestJet ad also features real employees. “They’re not actors,” said Daintree. “They play themselves and that real genuine experience that you’ll get with us.”

With that as a starting point, the goal was to tell a story around the feelings of connection, reunion and celebration after a difficult 15 months. “How can we create a really relatable story for everyone to engage with in a very emotional way, while demonstrating that WestJet is a brand that can reconnect you to those moments that have been on pause for so long,” said Daintree.

The timing: The airline knew early in the second quarter that it wanted a comeback ad of sorts, and had settled on this idea and filmed it by May. “It’s been a faster-than-usual turnaround from a post-production perspective,” he said.

The airline had to be fast to respond to the increasing interest as the COVID outlook improved in Canada and consumer sentiment toward travel started to change quickly. “How do we capitalize on that as best as we can…. get this message out to Canadians, and re-establish that emotional connection with a brand that they haven’t really seen or heard from.”

Does he have a first trip in mind? The first flight will almost certainly be to visit his parents in Vancouver, said Daintree. “As a fast follow, I would love some sand between my toes. We’ve got a very robust schedule to sunny destinations with white beaches and turquoise water, so I would I hope to see myself on a beach sometime this fall.”

David Brown