Flight Centre escapes tourist dystopia in first brand campaign

The travel agency competes with booking sites by showing how a personal touch can help people escape typical vacations.


Flight Centre has recognized that travel can become monotonous, and its new integrated campaign is helping position it as a way people escape humdrum, repetitive vacations.

In the hero spot for “Be Unbordered,” android-like service industry types offer the same “authentic” experiences to a group of interchangeable travelers, who line up for the same cafes, buses and hotels and are urged by megaphone to “stay within their comfort zones.” The spot ends when a couple escapes the Truman Show-like enclosure.

The campaign is based on the insight that the mentality of travelers is changing – Gavin Miller, Flight Centre’s VP of leisure, says people are seeking experiences outside of the typical “bucket list” of major destinations and attractions.  Cossette’s global CCO, Peter Ignazi, tells strategy that the creative is an exaggeration of what happens when vacationers see the same faces in the restaurant, on the beach, on the plane, and in the end realizing the trip they’d booked wasn’t as “special” as it could’ve been.

Despite the desire for a unique experience, consumers are also reluctant to trust booking to someone else, Miller says, but nonetheless miss the personal touch in a category increasingly dominated by online self-serve bookings and algorithmic suggestions. Ignazi says that anyone can go online and get the cheapest, lowest common denominator price, but when you’re letting an algorithm decide, there’s no personalization, which the campaign promotes as the company’s competitive advantage.

This is the first integrated mass brand campaign Flight Centre has run in Canada. The company, headquartered in Australia, first opened a Canadian location in 1995 and now operates 150 retail store locations. Ignazi says that Flight Centre has been running individual promotional campaigns for more traditional travel packages like beach vacations, for example. These are effective in the short term, he says, but there was no laddering up of a bigger, emotional brand idea.

When it comes to timing, Ignazi says the fall is a time when the target audience start to sense the changing of the season, and contemplate a vacation getaway or begin planning a winter trip.

The spot will be featured on TV and cinema screens, with the broader campaign featuring out-of-home ads in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, as well as streetcar wraps in Toronto. Cossette won the Flight Centre Travel Group account in 2018.