Why travel? Because it moves us, says Air Transat

Who: Air Transat, with Sid Lee for strategy, creative and media; Colossale for production (directed by Caraz); Arketype and Pigeste for post production; Cult Nation for audio and music.

What: “Travel Moves Us,” a new brand platform and launch campaign, which the airline said represents a “turning point” in its 35-year history as it embarks on a new growth strategy. It replaces “Vacation is Calling,” which the brand first introduced in 2016.

When & Where: The first phase of the campaign is live in key Quebec and Ontario markets, running across TV (with a :60 and :30 running in Quebec only) and online video, as well as out-of-home and digital activations in both markets. The campaign’s second phase will be deployed internationally.

Why: The campaign presents a much more “expansive” vision of travel, said Maria Pagano, senior director, brand and customer experience with Air Transat. “This is really telling customers who we are and why you want to travel with us.”

While the airline is well-known in Quebec and Ontario for whisking people to tropical destinations, Pagano said that a deep dive into the airline’s customers found that its marketing was not resonating with key segments such as VFRs (a travel acronym for visiting friends and relatives), which comprise about one-third of the airline’s clientele.

“A good portion of our customer base are VFRs, and we wanted them to see themselves in our ad,” said Pagano. They were there all along, but our previous [marketing] didn’t really capture them.”

While the previous brand platform spoke to the transformative powers of vacation, Pagano said that the goal with the new work is to demonstrative the transformative powers of travel as a whole. “We’re talking about those moments of change we experience on a trip—good ones, bad ones, but all covering the magic of travel,” she said.

How: Shot on location in Portugal, the two-minute spot focuses on three types of Air Transat customers: A young solo traveller (a segment that Pagano said has grown post-pandemic), a mother and daughter returning to the former’s home country for a funeral, and a couple in their 50s seeking new travel experiences.

After the introduction of the three customer segments and the opening super “Why travel?” the spot juxtaposes scenes from each group’s trip with a series of on-screen supers featuring questions like “Why here?” “Why change your clock?” “Why change your routine?” and “Why stay still?”

In each case, the answer to the question are the travel experiences themselves—from the solo traveller finding romance,to the older couple boldly trying exotic new foods, to the mother and daughter enjoying each other’s company even against the backdrop of a melancholy occasion.

It closes with the tagline “Travel Moves Us” appearing on screen, and the double meaning now clear: Air Transat can move you around the world, for experiences that can change your life.

A funeral to sell air travel? Yep. One of the early shots in the spot shows a woman reacting to the news of a loved one’s death, followed by her packing a black dress into a suitcase. It’s rare to see the less cheery aspects of life being depicted in advertising for a sector that’s all about escape.

“We wanted to show all the transformative moments of travel,” she said. “I did live abroad, so I lived that experience myself. It was an experience we were able to talk about, and I’m very proud to have put that forward. The feedback we’re getting is that a lot of people see themselves in that scene.”

The song: The spot is soundtracked by the song “Better Each Day”—albeit with some F-bombs strategically removed—by the all-female Quebec band NOBRO, which also recorded a French version of the song specifically for the spot. “We put a lot of time into choosing the right song… and its punk sound is super-relevant to young people [as well] as older people,” said Pagano. “We felt it spoke to two groups in our customer base.”

It was also chosen for the ability of its more raucous sound to cut through, she said. “If you’re at home cutting your vegetables and you hear this come on TV, you’re going to stop and look, and that was a really important thing for us. A word that we used, and actually had on the wall through the whole creative process was ‘Joy,’ and we really felt that the song evokes joy. It’s happy, positive, and exciting and gives you a jolt.”

And we quote: “The campaign is about how travel makes us more open. We all have apprehensions about change. We wanted to address this truth and speak to how meeting new people and experiencing new places and cultures bring us closer and make us more empathetic towards one another. It’s about the joys of travel, including the challenges it poses—challenges that ultimately make travel one of the most rewarding experiences of all.” — Brian Gill, creative director, Sid Lee

Chris Powell