Travelocity Gnome Takes on Leave of Absence

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

Travelocity is on the hunt for its gnome mascot, and as part of a quirky new marketing campaign is asking the public for help finding him.

Travelocity last month began airing a TV spot with its iconic Roaming Gnome touting the brand. Then, a new commercial hit the airwaves with the same message and same look, except the Roaming Gnome is missing, replaced with an unknown man wearing the Gnome’s signature red hat.

This latest ad campaign begins the hunt for the Roaming Gnome, who will pop up in random locations throughout the U.S. To track his whereabouts, sightings can be posted at GnomeWatch.com, theories shared and photos submitted. Gnomewatchers can respond to a poll that asks the question what happened to the Roaming Gnome and pick from a variety of choices, including “He was abducted by aliens,” “He’s in rehab for his powdered donut addiction” and “I don’t know, but I sure do miss him.”

The stunt is part of a viral campaign design to keep consumers engaged with the Travelocity brand. In one post, Rufus wrote, “I totally think the Gnome came to my house asking for candy today. He had a beard and a pointy red hat. I ran to get my camera, but he was gone when I got back.”

The goal behind the viral campaign is to leverage the popularity of the gnome icon, which Travelocity has used for the last two and a half years, said Deborah Italiano, Travelocity’s VP-marketing.

“He’s become a really well known icon,” she said. “When we walk down the street with him, people just don’t recognize him as a gnome, but as the Travelocity Roaming Gnome. We do know people do business with brands they like in a big way. The gnome really helps us bridge that gap.”

As part of a campaign overlay, Travelocity street teams will hit New York to stage a protest of the substitute gnome and urge people to find the Roaming Gnome. The effort rolls out this month.

Travelocity is using the background of a ficticious reporter, Mary O’Hara from WTR5, who is following the story about the mysterious disappearing Roaming Gnome. Pictures of O’Hara dumpster diving in her quest to uncover the mystery can be found online.

Meanwhile, while the search continues, Travelocity will replace the Roaming Gnome with the substitute in its print ads, TV spots and online, the company said.

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