Kids Dreamed Up a Dozen Stunts That WestJet Then Livestreamed for Its Christmas Campaign

The latest from an acclaimed holiday advertiser

This time of year, airports are magical winter wonderlands where holiday wishes come true. Right?!

WestJet certainly went all out to make it so, turning to Canadian youngsters for yuletide notions that helped inform its 2017 holiday campaign.

The Canadian carrier’s previous memorable year-end spots have included placing special presents on a baggage carousel; completing 12,000 “mini miracles” in 24 hours; and bringing joy to folks in Fort McMurray, Alberta, whose lives were devastated by wildfires.

For this year’s “12 Flights of Christmas” extravaganza, WestJet climbed into the seasonal stratosphere, staging a dozen creative, colorful and (in some cases) celebrity-driven stunts at airports across the Great White North.

Designed to delight travelers while boosting the brand, the happenings stemmed from suggestions made by kids at the St. Alban’s Boys and Girls Club in Toronto, who are seen brainstorming ideas in the video below, which also features campaign highlights:

Check out the imaginative elfin moppet who shows up early in the clip and suggests “Lots of presents as big as the entire Earth!” Give that kid a 747-sized candy cane!

While the airline didn’t soar quite that high with this experiential initiative, it did succeed in staging 12 sparkly, holiday-themed spectacles in terminals and aboard planes, with each event streamed via Facebook Live on consecutive days in late November. Brand-hued Blue Santa and Mrs. Claus put in appearances, dozens of guests got free WestJet tickets, and the Boys and Girls Clubs kids were on hand to receive the extra-awesome present of watching their ideas take flight.

“A child’s imagination is a remarkable and powerful thing, and to them, Christmas is magic,” Corey Evans, WestJet’s senior community marketing manager, tells Adweek. “We knew that if we asked children what Christmas meant to them, we’d get some fascinating and memorable responses.”

2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the WestJet Cares for Kids program, so the carrier wanted to work with the Boys and Girls Clubs, one of its program partners. To help shape the kids’ concepts and build anticipation, WestJet’s Facebook fans voted on some details of the stunts, choosing, for example, whether bells or bows would be featured at a specific event. The marketer also worked with agencies Studio M, Edelman, Media Experts and Society on facets of the campaign.

“Pulling off a dozen surprises in 10 different airports and on one flight is no easy task,” Evans says. “The most challenging aspect was doing all the events live. It added a new level of complexity and planning. We had to get all the shots we needed for the hero piece but we still had to tell a story in real time.”

Some of our favorite stunts from the 12 Flights include the Royal Winnipeg Ballet performing scenes from “The Nutcracker” (what else?) at that city’s Richardson International Airport:

“The Mouse King from ‘The Nutcracker’ had to hide under a baggage carousel for 30 minutes” before the team was ready to spring the stunt live, Evans recalls. (Sorry, Whiskers, that’s showbiz.)

Next, Whose Line Is It Anyway star Colin Mochrie improv-ed his way through an ugly-sweater-themed ticket giveaway in Hamilton, Ontario:

“Colin really wanted to bring a real reindeer into the airport but he was not permitted,” Evans says. “To help him out, we rented a reindeer suit and had two employees wear it for the duration of the event. He seemed happy with the compromise.”

Meanwhile, in Toronto, Aaron Sanchez of the Blue Jays pitched in with a giant snow globe, because who wouldn’t like to play around in one of those, eh?

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.