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Why Air Transat Is Asking Canadians: ‘Why Travel?’


Sid Lee creative director Brian Gill and Air Transat Sr. director, brand and customer experience Maria Pagano discuss Air Transat’s newest position, and why this was the right time for a change, writes LBB’s Josh Neufeldt

Why Air Transat Is Asking Canadians: ‘Why Travel?’

‘Why travel?’ It’s an interesting question. When booking airline tickets, the brain usually ventures to daydreaming about the fun locations to explore while away, cool restaurants to try, or in some cases, sheer panic over the fact that while trying to navigate the booking website before the purchase ticket timer runs out, the credit card got left in the other room. Regardless, with travel, it’s usually every other ‘W’ question that gets asked before ‘why’. Where will you travel? Who will you travel with? What will you do while travelling? When will you travel? The secret is, however, that all these questions contribute to the answer of ‘why?’. And most importantly, the sum of these parts is surprisingly simple - and lends itself as the name for the new platform: ‘Travel Moves Us’... and in more ways than one. 

Both of these lessons are something that Montreal-based travel brand, Air Transat, wants prospective travellers to understand. And, with the pandemic effectively gone and travel returning to normal, it seemed like a perfect time to introduce these ideas through a new brand positioning. Enter Sid Lee. Working together, Air Transat has adopted a new growth strategy, focused on emphasising its reputation as a globally-recognised, friendly, open and expert brand.

This new chapter has driven a multi-channel marketing campaign that explores the impact travel has on people’s lives - and has seen the debut of a TV spot, ‘Why Travel?’. Directed by Caraz (a two-time Gold Young Director Awards winner), this ode to travel follows three protagonists, each of whom is on a transformative journey through new places, new experiences and new outlooks. Set to ‘Better Each Day’, a song by Montreal-based group NOBRO, this vibrant, energetic campaign symbolises the modern course Air Transat has embarked on, and the brand’s desire to help its customers see the world around them, no matter the reason. 

LBB’s Josh Neufeldt sat down with Sid Lee creative director Brian Gill and Air Transat’s Sr. director, brand and customer experience Maria Pagano to find out how this campaign came to life. 

LBB> ‘Why Travel?’ kicks off Air Transat’s newest brand position: ‘Travel Moves Us’. What was the brief like for this campaign? And what immediate ideas came to mind?

Brian> The brief revolved around openness. Sid Lee and Air Transat worked hard to come up with something that had relevancy and edge. In short, what we were given was: ‘We are more open with every trip. It is a truth we could rally around. It’s the result travel has on people. But it is also a guiding principle of Air Transat. We want to demonstrate how the experience of travel not only shapes who we are, but that it broadens our understanding of each other’. 

LBB> Why is now the right time for a new brand position, and what are you hoping to achieve? 

Maria> The timing of this new brand position is connected to Air Transat’s resurgence following covid-19, and the launch of a new, long-term strategic plan that, for the first time in our history, focuses on growing our airline business.

While we have always been primarily known for our south packages and transatlantic flights, we now believe that we need to expand our horizons to include all types of travel - with a focus on leisure. This evolution requires a strategic repositioning of the brand with two main objectives: to distinguish ourselves from the competition, and to engage with a changing demographic. This is where the new brand campaign comes in, as it allows us to create opportunities to get the word out and engage our loyal customers, as well as those unfamiliar with Air Transat. This is especially important as we add more airline partners and destinations to our network.

After 35 years as vacation experts, we are broadening our own perspective to offer the very best experience to our customers, as well as a window on the world, no matter what type of travel they are looking for. As such, we want people to know that Air Transat is beginning a new chapter in its history. We share a passion for travel with our customers, and we believe that travel has a transformative power to make us more open to ourselves, to others, and to the world. We feel this is a positioning that is completely ownable for Air Transat. This campaign launches a reaffirmed purpose to encourage and play an active role in our customers’ pursuit of openness. 

LBB> What lessons has Air Transat learned in its 35 years of experience, and how did they influence this brand evolution? 

Maria> We champion discovery and the pure joy of travel with a caring savoir-faire. We are well known by our customers for our friendly and welcoming service on board our aircraft, and our staff embody the openness of Montreal (the city we are born and raised in). Today, for the first time, we are reasserting ourselves to own this position. Internally, we say that we’re finally growing out of our teenage years and becoming ourselves - an airline meant to accompany you, no matter why you’re travelling, while offering the very best experience. 

This decision has already started to pay off. We are becoming a global airline that is among the world’s best in our category - as our recent Skytrax award for ‘Best Leisure Airline in North America’ can attest. We also now have a presence in three continents, and are constantly expanding our network with the addition of codeshare agreements and our virtual interlining service ‘connectair’. We are not setting the tour operator aside - this will always be an integral part of our business - but we’re adding more focus on the airline’s incredible potential. Additionally, where our previous brand platform was based on the need of brightening the everyday life of our clients, we decided to broaden our brand platform to include all leisure travel. This is the most significant change.

LBB> Where did the ‘Why Travel?’ idea and copy come from?

Brian> We loved the simplicity of asking a question to invite people into the conversation. There are probably as many reasons to travel as there are travellers. The idea was not to give people the answer, but to allow people to see themselves in the situations and make their own opinions about why travel is important.

LBB> Building on this, the spot features a number of ‘why’ questions that play off the overarching ‘Why Travel?’. What was the copywriting process for this like? 

Brian> At Sid Lee, we believe in constant collaboration. It’s about writing something and getting colleagues’ input on it. It leads to many variations of an idea, where the cream rises to the top. This was a spot that we never stopped writing. We started with a basic structure, of course, but we knew that we had to keep ourselves open to finding new ‘why’s’ as we moved forward. The goal was to keep things as genuine as possible. To achieve this, we needed to allow our script to evolve with the casting, locations, and what we ultimately shot. We were crafting the questions right up until the final edit. 

LBB> The spots are a joy to watch, featuring diverse stories and diverse locations! What went into writing and telling these stories, and where did you shoot? 

Brian> Because there are so many reasons why people travel, and so many travellers, we knew we wanted a diverse group of people. Three storylines allowed us to address a good number of reasons why people travel, and represent the broad range of travellers. 

In terms of location, the film and photos were shot in Portugal, which offered us diversity. By going there, we were able to get urban, village and coastal locations, all within a short distance of one another. However, we weren’t necessarily looking to highlight a specific destination. If you recognise it’s Portugal, that’s great, but what was more important was that we feature the experiences of the travellers.

LBB> The acting of the protagonists is very heartfelt. What was casting like, and how did you find the perfect people for the job? 

Brian> I can’t address the acting without talking about the director, Caraz. She did a fabulous job of finding people who she felt could give an honest performance. Prior to launching the casting, we all agreed that we wanted a cast that was representative of the real world. We were definitely not looking for perfect model types. Once you take this off the table, it opens your casting up to different characters - something which is not only more honest, but also refreshing. 

Caraz just got the idea. And, the chemistry between her and the team was right. Together, everyone just became stronger. Aside from having a gift for creating beautiful imagery, we felt that Caraz would be able to conjure up the intangibles, and make one plus one equal three. She also had the right amount of empathy for the stories we wanted to tell. This made it possible for her to create something with the honest emotion we were looking for. 

LBB> Another memorable element of the spot is the use of NOBRO’s bilingual soundtrack - ‘Better Each Day’. Who did you work with to find this song, and what made it the right choice? 

Brian> We knew we wanted an original track to help land the emotion. We wrote a music brief that cast a wide net, and had Cult Nation put together playlists for us. I think we had four or five rounds. Buried among the myriad of songs was NOBRO’s ‘Better Each Day’. It had a lot going for it, being a local Montreal band. Lyrically, it made sense, and the energy was cool. But it wasn’t until Caraz put it on a demo film that it started to resonate with everyone. Ultimately, we could not have been happier to end up working with a local punk band for this.

LBB> What challenges did you face during this project? And how did you overcome them? 

Maria> Any project of this magnitude is no easy feat, so we’ve had to adjust course a few times in this process. Many stakeholders are involved, there’s been much research and analysing of data, and all of this has been juggled while keeping the focus on our customers. Luckily, our internal stakeholders were onboard from the start, and our team at Sid Lee were unbelievable in supporting us through the process. We truly believe that we’ve knocked this campaign out of the park, and now we are receiving the appropriate praises for it.

LBB> So… why travel?

Brian> Experiences make us who we are. Travel offers some of the most awesome experiences we can have. It opens our eyes and hearts to people we wouldn’t have known or understood without it.

Maria> Because, as we say, ‘travel moves us’. We believe that travel has transformative powers, and as such, encourages an openness to the world. After 35 years as vacation experts, we are broadening our own perspective to offer the very best experience to our customers, as well as a window on the world, no matter what type of travel they are looking for. 

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Sid Lee, Fri, 11 Nov 2022 17:37:53 GMT