Air Canada travels the (snow) globe to bring Canadians a feel-good holiday ad

Who: Air Canada, with FCB Canada, Stoopid Buddy Studios for animation, Someplace Nice for production, Outsider Editorial, Grayson Music Group for audio, and its licensing division The Wilders. Media by Mindshare.

What: “‘Tis the Season to Believe,” a new animated holiday spot that marks a return to the storytelling approach embodied by 2019’s “Lost Reindeer.” Air Canada had shifted away from that approach as air travel ground to a halt during the pandemic. “We wanted to go back to storytelling and really building that emotional connection with Canadians,” said John Xydous, the airline’s director of brand strategy and content marketing.

When & Where: The two-and-half minute spot debuted today (Dec. 9) running until early January on Air Canada’s owned and operated channels. A 60-second version is running in cinema, along with 60- and 30-second versions on TV, and 30 and 15-second versions running on social and digital.

Why: The goal is to create an emotional connection between the brand and Canadians who haven’t been able to travel in nearly two years. It deliberately but subtly shows the airline’s role as a facilitator in bringing people together. “Forget flying people from A to B,” said Xydous. “We’re in the business of connecting people.”

How: The whimsical film blends live action and animation to tell a metaphorical story of people coming together after being separated by circumstances beyond their control. Soundtracked by the Forest Blakk song “I Saw Love” in English and Cœur de pirate’s “Comme des enfants” in French, the spot opens with a young boy being given a snow globe by his mother, an Air Canada pilot (played by a real Air Canada employee).

The boy places the globe on a shelf filled with other globes, and the perspective then shifts to an animated world inside the globe. We see a young man and woman are living in vastly different locales—a frosty winter globe for the man, and a tropical island globe for the woman. While they can see and interact each other from a distance, they are effectively trapped within their respective (and literal) bubbles.

The spot shows that love is blossoming between the two, but they are powerless to do anything about it. The young woman sends a message in a bottle to the North Pole, and her Christmas wish is granted as she shows up outside his wood cabin.

While the bubbles are clearly allusions to the separation created by Covid, Xydous said that Air Canada deliberately avoided referencing what has become so prevalent over the past couple of years. “I think people are tired of being hit over the head with Covid,” he said. “Animation gave us additional flexibility in telling our story and allowed us to play in a space where live action didn’t allow us to.”

The technique: Stoopid Buddy Studios used stop-motion to create the animation. The dolls’ facial expressions were neutral during the shoot, with the characters’ various emotions added in post. “The team was working a few hours to show you a two-second clip,” said Xydous.

Any concerns about the Omicrom and air travel: “We have big objective and aspirations for 2022,” said Xydous. “It’s probably too soon to understand the impact of this latest variant… and how damaging it will be to people’s travel plans, but the truth is that Canadians are not going to arrive one day at a ‘Covid is behind us’ [moment].

“You need to be vaccinated to get on board [a plane] and there are all of these safety measures from the airport to on board. People are feeling a lot more comfortable about going out there and doing the things they feel passionate about, and travel is one of those things.”

And we quote: “This year’s holiday brand spot, ‘Tis the season to believe,’ was inspired by the universally shared experiences and emotions felt over the course of the pandemic. But this piece is also inspired by the resilience and power of love and determination that has brought us back together. Slowly but surely, family and friends have been able to safely reunite and share beautiful moments together again, and we feel very fortunate to play a small part in their journeys back to one another.” — Andy Shibata, vice-president, brand, Air Canada

Chris Powell