Expedia
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Expedia "Find Your Understanding"

By Yash Egami on Sep 04, 2013

Among the recent tearjerkers in advertising such as Google’s “Dear Sophie,” the Budweiser Clydesdale “Brotherhood” Super Bowl ad and any commercial featuring Sarah McLachlan’s song “Angel,” we can add Expedia’s “Find Your Understanding,” a deeply moving film about a father coming to terms with his daughter’s same-sex wedding. Part of the “Find Yours” campaign created by 180LA, it features stories about travel and personal discovery, some of which are lighthearted and fun, and others which are utterly sad and beautiful. We spoke with 180LA’s chief creative officer, William Gelner, about the Expedia campaign, which recently won a Bronze Pencil at this year’s One Show Entertainment Awards in June.

Talk about how the “Find Yours” campaign came about.

When we were invited to pitch the business, one thing occurred to us: When you look at online travel sites, they all come off as the same, both in terms of the product, since they’re all pretty similar in what they do, and also in their behavior in how they market themselves. It struck us a category that’s pretty rational—a lot of the messaging is deal-based, and there are a lot of different characters being used as spokespeople, so that seemed to be the norm.
 
Travel is one of the most personal and emotional things you can do. I’m going to use a Mark Twain quote, and I know I’m butchering it, but he said something like, “Travel is dangerous to prejudice and bigotry.” That’s a powerful statement about travel, and it was something that was missing from what was out there.
 
When we pitched the business, we realized that as one of the leaders of the category, Expedia has the ability to shape how the category works and behaves. If the others are rational, deal-based guys, then we should pick the emotional high ground and talk about travel in a bigger, deeper and richer way. And we should talk about it in a transformative way.
 
Some of the episodes are real tearjerkers that are beautifully told and shot. What came into your head when you first saw the final product? 

We had been working on “Find Your Understanding” for a while, and it was one of the original ideas from pitch. We were talking about travel as this deeply transformative, emotional thing, and so we wanted stories that were equally so. We spent lot of time finding real-life stories that existed—we didn’t want it to be phony, we wanted a real story with real people where we could document it. When we found the story about Artie and his daughter, it was a touching and moving story. The subject matter was also relevant and timely. But most of that film was found footage from the couple’s actual wedding video—we just supplemented Artie’s story with it, and the two things were combined beautifully in the edit. It was a timely story during an election year when gay marriage was a hot topic, and it was a pretty profound statement from the eyes of the father. He was making a decision of whether to accept this and continue having a relationship with his daughter, or reject it and risk alienating her. When all the things were put together and it came to fruition, when we saw it for the first time, it was pretty touching, we were all very emotional. I’m still moved by it after all the showings.
 
The gay marriage story was incredibly risky for someone like Expedia. Did it take some convincing the client?

I give Expedia all the credit here. They took a chance of telling such a bold statement to the world, which is not something every brand would be comfortable doing. They had the guts to put something out there that they believed in at the risk of alienating people. It’s amazing to work with a client like that.
 
There was a lot of conversation about risk and a lot of back and forth about should we or shouldn’t we, and the upside and downside. There were a lot of open and frank conversations about it, and at the end of the day, they felt that it was something they believed in. They wanted to put a statement out in the world that they believe in the power of travel and how it transforms people’s point of view, like an epiphany, and they felt strongly about it. I think it also helped our case that there were other brands putting messages out there that were the opposite, saying that they were against [same-sex marriage], and it backfired big time. Just seeing all the negative comments from taking a point of view against it, we thought, imagine if we took a positive point of view and reversed the comments and turned them around and you were the benefactor? We thought that being positive would outweigh the negative comments tenfold.
 
Has there been any reaction or backlash?

With such a strong statement, there’s always going to be some negative comments, and there were. You can go on YouTube and read them now. There will be naysayers who point to scripture and the Bible who don’t agree with their statement. But they were also in the minority—the vast majority said incredibly positive things about it. They really did validate their decision to put it out there.
 
But our favorite metric was a comment from the couple in the film, and this was before they legalized gay marriage in California. They carried a child into this world. At that point in time they weren’t recognized as a legally married couple, so they had to formally adopt their own child. So a social worker came to their house to meet them and talk to them about it, and they played the film for her. The social worker was so moved by it that she just closed her book and said, ‘My job is done’ and approved it. It was a pretty powerful result. It was the first time in my career that I’ve seen that kind of result in the real world.
 
This campaign has a million possibilities, it could even be a TV series.

Everyone has a different travel story, we could get on a plane and go to the same place but have very different experiences. There are a broad range of stories, and some are emotional tearjerkers. Others are lighthearted, or hilarious or moving. The genius is that you can go to a lot of different places and open a lot of different doors to access the brand.

With the “Find Yours” platform, each part is personal and individual. Sometimes it may mean commercials, or sometimes it’s longer-form work that lives on the Web. Sometimes it’s apps, but it’s anything that can help tell personal stories. I think we’ve just scratched the surface. There’s a lot more that can be done, we’re just getting started.
 
The latest one we did was sort of a social experiment on the streets of New York. We had a camera crew and basically asked people to download the Expedia app and tell us where they would like to go right now and we filmed it. They could go anywhere in the world and we would pay for it, but the catch was they had to go right then. A few were like, I have to check in with my boss or my wife, I don’t know, but the one guy who said yes, he was on his way to the airport a few minutes later. He wound up going to the Great Wall of China and we filmed it, it was always his dream to go there and it was a lot of fun, he had a great time.
 







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