These are likely gut-wrenching days for the Travelocity Roaming Gnome mascot as his future role with the now-Expedia-owned brand is likely part of a pending advertising agency review.
Travelocity will replace McKinney, the ad agency that created the Gnome in 2004, lost the account to the Leo Burnett agency in 2010, and was brought back to overturn Leo Burnett’s deemphasis of the mascot in 2012.
Travelocity has ordered an account review and is soliciting replacement agencies, according to AdWeek.
Speaking in extremely blunt terms, McKinney CEO Brad Brinegar told AdWeek that his company doesn’t like where Travelocity’s parent Expedia is heading with Travelocity marketing.
McKinney is giving up the account — or perhaps Expedia/Travelocity is fed up with the agency. “Our interests are not aligned with the direction being taken by Travelocity’s new owner, Expedia,” AdWeek quotes Brinegar as saying. “Therefore, we have not accepted the invitation to participate in the review. We have a lot of love for this brand and wish them success in the future.”
The Gnome, of course won’t be the only issue in the account review. But if you consider Travelocity’s recent email marketing, it is all about “50% off hotels,” “Today’s best flight deals for you,” and “24 Hours Only Up to 40% Off.”
It’s all about deals, low prices and discounts. The Roaming Gnome, who has an aspirational bent when he isn’t muzzled, is missing in action in the latest email marketing.
Expedia.com’s email marketing takes a similar price-conscious angle.
Even in Travelocity TV spots like “Beached,” which aired a little more than a month ago, The Roaming Gnome is there and he kicks off the advertisement, but the heart of the commercial is the message, “Book Now Up to 40% Off Hotels at Travelocity.”
When Expedia acquired Travelocity in January 2015, Expedia officials emphasized that the plan was to keep the Roaming Gnome.
Few think Expedia/Travelocity will kill the Gnome especially when members of the remaining Travelocity team that transitioned to Expedia Inc. are champions of the Gnome.
When McKinney gave birth to the Roaming Gnome in 2004, I thought the mascot was an odd choice and stodgy — even 11 years ago.
Do millennials relate to the Gnome? Is he the future ticket for Travelocity?
Gnome defenders swear that the mascot resonates with the public as does the Travelocity brand despite the fact that Travelocity as a business failed.
The question, though, is whether the Gnome will manage to hang on under the stewardship of a new advertising agency, or will he be relegated to being merely a lawn ornament and a sideshow.
Travelocity, meanwhile, is already a miniature version of its former self when it comes to its marketing budget. Kantar Media, according to AdWeek, states that Travelocity spent $29 million on measured media in 2014, although that was prior to Expedia acquiring the company.
At its peak around a decade ago, Travelocity was spending roughly $80 million on measured media.
Those were the days, as the Roaming Gnome would tell anyone who listens. Go and smell the roses.