A China Airlines ad that flies in the face of unwritten rules of airline advertising – push safety, service and style – is sending the internet into a frenzy over a “fantastic, best in class” campaign.
And there’s a poignant Australian connection.
Instead of groomed flight attendants serving top-shelf booze on new planes rigged with quality entertainment systems, the ‘What Travel Brings You’ ad counterintuitively highlights the bad things about travel.
“You never know what travel will bring into your life,” notes the ad.
“Let’s go find out.”
The result? The Chinese-language version of the divertingly grim spot has been viewed six million times on YouTube since going live last month.
Across all platforms, the ad was watched nearly nine million times in the first two weeks according to the creative agency behind it, Leo Burnett Taiwan.
“I just want to know where Don Draper is and where you are keeping him,” said one fan on social media, referencing TV show Mad Men’s creative genius.
The two-minute video features a montage of unwelcome souvenirs people bring back home from trips.
It kicks off with a man smiling semi-wistfully at the evidence of a ski trip to Japan: A broken snowboard and broken leg.
There’s a woman whose Bangkok trip has given her an extra inch or two which she pinches in a change room, and other mementoes including a Las Vegas marriage certificate, a Roman fiance and even a pregnancy.
A woman is shown sitting on a toilet, staring at the two lines on a test stick that means her Gold Coast holiday souvenir is a baby.
That storyline inspired Taiwanese-owned China Airlines to invite 60 women to the launch of the ‘What Travel Brings You’ campaign to share stories of where they were when they fell pregnant.
Giving new resonance to the airline’s former ‘We blossom for you every day’, the airline wanted to know the best ‘stork-chasing destinations’. (For those interested, Japan, Italy and Thailand.)
Other things brought back on the ad that their new owners might have buyer’s remorse over: Shopping from New York, a tattoo from Amsterdam and a creepy statue from Edinburgh that moves itself around a room.
One woman is asked to step out of her car when a policeman checks her licence. The inference: She’s brought a touch of plastic surgery home from South Korea.
“The ad breaks just about every rule of travel marketing, bypassing bright, sunny and scenic locales in favour of a humorously bleak look at the life you return to after a vacation,” Adweek said.
“While not all the scenarios are slathered in regret, they certainly all show that an international trip can have … unexpected consequences.”
People have raved about the ad on its video post and social media.
“Well played China Airlines, well played,” said one Twitter user. “Wonderful,” said another, and a third said simply “Hysterical”.
A third gave with one hand and took with the other: “This ad is hilarious and fantastic. Considering how much a disaster China Airlines can be and how every time I fly on them still, I do a little prayer, props to them.”
Adweek noted counterintuitive travel marketing might be a trend.
A recent ad from Dutch airline KLM encouraged potential flyers to rethink whether air travel is always necessary, given how jet emissions contribute to climate change.
The ad was created to appeal to millennial travellers who want life experiences rather than just “making friends jealous with gorgeous pics on Instagram”, according to Leo Burnett Taiwan.
“To them, travel means something more than … crossing off destinations from a wish list, or buying little key chains from far-away places,” the agency told Adweek about its hit campaign.
“Travel means the experience that leaves a mark on life, by changing the way we think, look and feel, or even to change our whole life – a rich intercultural experience that can impact the lives of young travellers.”