Twitter #CreativeFavorites: @Travelocity and @McKinney send the @RoamingGnome into uncharted territory

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

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The summary (in 140 characters or less)

@Travelocity and @McKinney fuel wanderlust and help travelers with a series of groundbreaking Twitter campaigns.

The brand

Since 2004, @Travelocity, a leading U.S. online travel agency, has used a cheeky spokesperson to encourage customers to “go and smell the roses”: the @RoamingGnome. The globetrotting garden ornament feels right at home on Twitter, where he shares his travel experiences and invites followers to do the same.

The agency

@McKinney, a creative agency based in Durham, North Carolina, has partnered with @Travelocity for more than a decade. In fact, @McKinney came up with the concept of the @RoamingGnome.

The campaigns

Travelers love using Twitter to chat about their dream vacations and get ideas for their next adventures. The live, public and conversational nature of Twitter makes it the ideal place for @Travelocity to reach its target audience. Rather than simply joining the conversation, the brand worked with @McKinney to develop personal, never-been-done-before interactions to delight and assist trip planners.

Recent campaigns have ranged from a travel contest inspired by users’ comments to a vacation-planning tool to a shark-tracking website, and all have met or exceeded the brand’s benchmarks. To learn more, read on.


The strategy: In March, the biggest travel booking period of the year, @Travelocity aimed to reach as many potential customers as possible via a Twitter contest. The brand aired TV ads during an episode of “The Amazing Race” featuring the hashtag #IWannaGo, and encouraged viewers to Tweet about their dream destination for a chance to win a trip anywhere in the world.

The creative: Twitter not only provided a vehicle for the #IWannaGo contest, it also inspired it. “We noticed that users loved Tweeting to the Gnome about where they wanted to take him, so that prompted us to create a campaign around it,” said Laura Suchoski, Social Media Manager at @McKinney. “Twitter is invaluable as a treasure trove of user content.”

The initial #IWannaGo Tweets featured a variety of media including text, images and Vines. @McKinney and Jeff Schroer from media/strategy partner Truly Untitled worked together to track the performance of each type of Tweet. They found that Tweets with images performed particularly well.

For many users, a highlight of the campaign was the day the Gnome responded to 60 #dreamdestination Tweets with personalized Vines. The playful Vines resulted in the most mentions of the @RoamingGnome in a 24-hour period in the account’s five-year history.

The results:@Travelocity gained 34,517 followers during their campaign. @McKinney attributes much of the campaign’s success to the live conversation that Twitter enables. “The one-to-one interactions on Twitter feel personal, but because the platform is public, they impact hundreds of thousands of people,” noted @McKinney Chief Digital Officer Jim Russell.


The strategy: In mid-May, @Travelocity and @McKinney created an unprecedented choose-your-own adventure Twitter experience to help users plan Memorial Day weekend vacations. The Gnome Tweeted a link to the beginning of a decision tree made up of 51 Tweets and eight Twitter accounts. To navigate the experience, users answered the question posed in each Tweet by clicking a custom link according to their travel preference. A few answers later, they received a personalized destination recommendation from the roaming gnome.

“Hashtags allowed us to track the conversation, and targeting let us send specific messages to different geographic regions,” said Stevie Archer, Associate Creative Director at @McKinney. “#MemorialDayRoam could only have happened on Twitter. We couldn’t have done it on any other platform.”

The creative: All Tweets were written in the Gnome’s unique voice, which is mischievous, fun and always ready for adventure. “Users respond to the Gnome because he speaks in a distinctive way,” said Archer. “His voice is that of a fellow traveler, not a brand or corporation.”

The results: Twitter users loved the unusual format of the campaign: 99.3% of those who began the trip-planning interaction completed it. “This showed that when content is rewarding, Twitter users are willing to engage and focus,” said Russell.

The strategy: To take advantage of the buzz surrounding #SharkWeek, the @RoamingGnome directed users to an interactive website,, that revealed the location of the nearest shark. Users could then investigate travel destinations on that would bring them closer to or farther from sharks.

The creative: “When it came to marketing during #SharkWeek, we knew that it would be a very crowded space,” Suchoski said. “We used Twitter to create a deeper interactive experience that would spark conversation.”

They succeeded. “It was hilarious to see people sharing their distance from sharks,” said Archer. “People would be hundreds of miles away, but would shout on Twitter that they were much too close for comfort.”

The results: The campaign initially garnered 371,800 Twitter impressions, and media coverage then boosted this number by 862,900. Other highlights included 38,200 site visits and an average Twitter engagement rate of 7.81% – twice the brand’s average.

The wrap-up

According to @McKinney, all three campaigns met or exceeded the client’s benchmarks.

What’s next for the @RoamingGnome? Archer says users can look for his Tweets during the upcoming season of “The Amazing Race.” She added that he’s also looking forward to the holiday travel season.