Amex enlists Will Arnett for travel campaign

Who: American Express Canada, with Ogilvy Canada, Notch, North Strategic for PR, and UM for media.

What: “Happy Places,” a travel-themed campaign promoting the company’s revamped Aeroplan Cards, built around a new partnership with Canadian comedian Will Arnett.

When & Where: The campaign runs throughout the year across TV and online video, using a combination of 30- and 15-second ads. It is also targeting domestic travellers through ads at Toronto Pearson Airport and in-flight entertainment on Air Canada.

In addition, there is a robust influencer component that involves a partnership with 25 travel influencers from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. The social component is running across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as on Pinterest, where Amex is making its advertising debut.

Why: “The ‘Happy Places’ campaign is all about connecting to the idea that now, more than ever, nothing brings us together like the joy of sharing new experiences,” said Vanessa Crooker, American Express Canada’s vice-president, enterprise loyalty.

“We want the campaign to do a few things: Resonate with Canadians as they start to consider travelling again; remind Canadians of our stake in the premium travel space, and how American Express backs you in your life and your travel experiences; and lastly, at a business level, we want the campaign to have a deeper impact on our overall acquisition efforts.”

American Express launched the revamped Aeroplan cards in 2020, but decided to push back the accompanying campaign because of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. “We knew when we finally did launch the campaign, we wanted it to be high-impact,” she said. “Something that would reach Canadians based on where they’re consuming media now, and that would connect with them on an emotional level.”

How: Developed by Notch, the social spot opens on Arnett sitting in a bubble-filled bathtub (although wearing a robe, for some reason) and dreaming of being able to travel to a vacation “happy place.” As the spot continues, we see him practicing his French and asking a pizza delivery guy to choose between pairs of swimming briefs, before the spot concludes with him wheeling suitcases out to a waiting car to set off on a new travel adventure.

The campaign also features a TV spot from Ogilvy (see it below) directed by Director X and featuring choreography by Toronto’s Tanisha Scott, who has previously worked with musical superstars including Rihanna and Beyoncé. “We specifically wanted to work with a music video director and choreographer given the nature of the creative idea,” said Crooker. “Knowing that we wanted to tell our brand story through dance and music, it was important to us to work with experts in this space.”

Set to the song “Free” by Boomeo, the spot shows people joyfully dancing their way to a travel destination after swiping their Aeroplan card. “[T]hey created a TV spot for us that feels really different for our brand and industry,” said Crooker. “That spot brings to life the joy of travel, made better with the help of American Express and Aeroplan.”

For the campaign’s influencer component, Amex sent them items inspired by the travel destinations Greece and Japan which were presented in unboxing videos.

Why Will Arnett? The Arrested Development star, who is currently also the pitchman for Freedom Mobile, brings what Crooker describes as “natural wit, charm and comedic personality” to the campaign. “As someone who is used to travelling to multiple airports—sometimes in a matter of days—he also understands the benefit of a more elevated and seamless travel experience, so the partnership felt like an authentic fit,” said Crooker.

But are Canadians really ready to travel again? Research conducted by American Express, even the thought of travelling again can lift Canadians’ spirits. According to a survey of 1,500 Canadians conducted by Maru/Blue, 80% said that the anticipation of travelling is uplifting, with 57% indicating that they’re planning to take a vacation in the next 12 months.

Chris Powell