Travelocity Launches Roaming Gnome Ad Campaign

Geared toward today’s savvy travelers, Travelocity and its advertising agency, McKinney + Silver of Raleigh, N.C., today launched the multi-dimensional “Roaming Gnome” advertising campaign. Pilfered by some Travelocity travelers, THE ROAMING GNOME, the two- foot original character with a red hat, will be featured in a series of advertisements in media outlets including DIRECTV, cable television, national and local radio, and national and local print spots.

The campaign’s initial budget is approximately $80 million.

“We believe that the best trips start at Travelocity, and we want to share our excitement with other travelers,” said Susan McLaughlin, vice president of marketing for Travelocity. “With The Roaming Gnome as the central figure of this campaign, we are highlighting Travelocity’s no-surprise philosophy when it comes to the entire travel shopping experience, while also allowing consumers to witness the wonder of all the fantastic places he sees, all made possible through Travelocity.”

In the ads, The Roaming Gnome writes to his owner Bill, telling of his experiences while traveling, including cliff diving in Mexico, skiing the winter slopes, enjoying a stinky wedge of cheese in Quebec and flying—complete with eye covers. All of the ads include the tagline, “Book with Travelocity: Don’t Forget your Hat(SM).” The line signifies how Travelocity takes care of all the customer’s needs.

“The Roaming Gnome is a character that we believe consumers will come to love and embrace,” said David Baldwin, executive creative director for McKinney + Silver. “He is a lens that allows travelers to share in his enthusiasm of seeing all of these magnificent places for the first time, and he is a great medium for sharing Travelocity travel stories.”


The ad launch follows a three-week pre-publicity campaign, during which the gnome’s fictional owner, Bill, searched for his gnome online, in cinema ads, posters and the classifieds. Interested searchers visited Bill’s site at and thousands more called in to report sightings as well. A television spot teasing the campaign that featured a news reporter interviewing several people on the lookout for The Roaming Gnome ran on Jan. 1 during the 2004 Rose Bowl.

The rotund, three-dimensional character, who hails from Great Britain and sports a pointy red hat, blue coat, and distinctive long, white beard, represents the spirit of Travelocity travelers with his adventurous, enthusiastic and fun-loving nature.

A longtime tradition in Europe and the United Kingdom, gnome “kidnappings” have been a source of amusement for those who “nick” the small, garden creatures for travels throughout the world, photograph the gnomes and mail the photos with “ransom” notes back to their owners.