Air Canada returns to storytelling to celebrate family reunions

The campaign tries to embody the excitement people have for being able to create holiday memories once again.


Air Canada believes that more of us will be able to reunite with loved ones soon, and its holiday campaign aims to capture the joy that brings with a return to a more storytelling-focused approach.

The airline brand’s holiday creative “‘Tis the season” to believe” tells the story of a boy who gets a snow globe from his mother, an actual Air Canada pilot, and is transformed into a magical animated world.

“It was inspired by the universally shared experiences and emotions felt over the course of the pandemic,” says Andy Shibata, VP of brand at Air Canada. Aside from the stress many people have been feeling, that also includes love, resilience and determination. “Slowly but surely, family and friends have been able to safely reunite and share beautiful moments together again, and we feel very fortunate to play a small part in their journeys back to one another.”

According to John Xydous, the airline’s director of brand strategy and content marketing, there are two different formats Air Canada adopts for the holidays: surprise and delight, and storytelling, and this latest spot is more in line with the latter, like Air Canada’s 2019 effort about kids finding lost reindeer.

“This style is a first for us,” he says, regarding the stop motion technology in combination with live action. “It felt right to go a bit broader with this kind of messaging.”

Surprise and delight, by contrast, he says, is more focused on gifts and experiential surprises that are more of a social and digital play. That was the focus on last year’s holiday campaign, which focused on people who gave back to their communities during the pandemic, as well as a pivot for its sports-focused “Fan Flights” campaign this spring.

People are starting to travel again, Xydous says, and with vaccinations and safety measures it has on board, Canadians feel more comfortable travel again, he says. Air Canada began tapping into the pent-up enthusiasm people have in the summer with its “Rise Higher” campaign during the Olympics, based around the excitement people have to pursue their passions again.

The new ad, created by FCB, is being presented across TV in 30- and 60-second versions, cinema, and cutdowns on social and digital platforms, and includes an extended version for Air Canada-owned channels. Mindshare took care of the buy side.

“It’s not a targeted buy, we went mass,” Xydous says. “The tone and message itself…the creativity just felt right for cinema and broadcast TV.” The ad spend is a bit higher than what Air Canada has been doing lately, but still lower than a typical TV buy, as the airline is not fully recuperated from pandemic downturns.

The music is by Forest Blakk and Cœur de pirate, the respective English- and French-version soundtracks.