MullenLowe’s Stunning Short Films for Royal Caribbean Serve Up Alaska’s Local Flavor

Visions of a magical land, as seen by those who live there

Mary Smith, the publisher of Edible Alaska, is one of three subjects in the remarkable docu-series.

If you want to discover what makes a place special, hang out with the locals.

In a new series of short, documentary-style films touting Royal Caribbean’s Alaska cruises, three Alaskans—two transplants from the Lower 48 and one native—vividly bring the state they love to life.

Created by MullenLowe, the work to some extent mirrors Airbnb’s “Live There” experiential forays, stressing authenticity of experience and regional flavor over typical tourist fare. Each about four minutes long, these films display an assured sense of story and a keen eye for both sweeping scenic vistas and more esoteric visual details, like the texture of cedar sculptures and grilled golden goodness of traditional cuisine.

Though filmed over just a few days in August, each subject emerges as a fully formed character in intimate, picturesque dramas that viewers might enjoying experiencing by cruising to Alaska on Royal Caribbean.

In the first clip below, we meet Wayne Price, a soft-spoken but fiercely proud master carver, who teaches his craft to the next generation, and sums up the transcendent spirit of his people in profound fashion. “I live in 10,000 years of Tlingit history that is part of my life every day,” he says. “Our culture is important enough not to lose.”

“Ultimately, we wanted our audience to experience the content like they would a film,” Kara Wallace, vp of North America marketing at Royal Caribbean, tells Adweek. “We wanted them to get lost in the unique stories and perspectives of Alaska; to watch and think, ‘I want to go there, I want to do that.'”

Director Jacob Rosenberg’s style serves that purpose well, and his stories unfold in compelling fashion. He’s ridden the local before in spots for Heinz and Santa Margherita Wines, and this effort builds on that base to deliver compelling form and function. The Royal Caribbean work is quietly intense, vaguely dreamy yet grounded, and it really reels us in. (It’s a big change from some boisterous cruise-line campaigns, and that includes past ads from this particular brand.)

“We wanted to create a series that serves a bigger cultural purpose of revealing the truth of the place itself, which goes far beyond advertising,” says MullenLowe associate creative director Danny Streadbeck. “We wanted to make sure each person complemented the others and didn’t tread on similar territory. When we found our three subjects, there was a common DNA about being self-driven and making a life specifically within and through the Alaska backdrop.”

Next, food journalist Mary Smith serves up some local flavor, deep-dishing on Alaskan cuisine as she explores her enduring bond to this vast, diverse land:

“Our audience is someone who is very culturally curious,” says agency social media account director Stacy Carpenter. “They want to see and experience the world, but don’t travel nearly as much as they want to. They are part of the binge-watching culture and turn to platforms like YouTube to consume engaging travel content. So, when we released ‘The Local’ on YouTube, we made sure to do so Netflix-style, so that all of the videos could be consumed within the same browsing experience.”

One such curiosity seeker was wilderness explorer Dan Oberlatz, whose first Alaska experience proved so profound, he ultimately moved there, and now guides expeditions into the state’s rugged and frequently awe-inspiring backcountry:

Overall, each film does a fine job of conveying the essence of authentic adventure and personal growth, showing prospective travelers the kinds of people they could meet and the ways their lives might be enriched.

And as it turns out, one of the location shoots led to an adventure for the creative team.

“Shooting in Denali National Park for Dan was quite challenging,” Streadbeck recalls. “A float plane dropped us off with all of our equipment, and we spent the night on the mountain. It rained nearly the entire time. We woke up the next morning and we were fogged in, so the plane couldn’t come back and get us. So we kept shooting, in the rain. Eventually, the weather cleared and we were able to get off the mountain, but we missed the train we planned to catch and shoot aboard. Our producer was able to get on the phone with the conductor and get the train to stop in a small town for us to jump on.”

Client: Royal Caribbean
Campaign: The Local: Alaska
President and CEO: Michael Bayley
CMO: Jim Berra
VP, North America Marketing: Kara Wallace
Director of Social Media: Ana Sofia Ayala Valverde
Lead Content Strategist, Social Media: Nathalie Fernandez
Social Media Producer, Marketing: Jamal Smith
Senior Community Strategist, Social Media, Marketing: Kiki Perera

Agency: MullenLowe
Chief Creative Officer: Mark Wenneker
Executive Creative Director: Tim Vaccarino
Executive Creative Director: Dave Weist
SVP, Creative Director: John Kearse
SVP, Creative Director: Rob Kottkamp
Associate Creative Director: Danny Streadbeck
Associate Creative Director: McKay Hathaway
Junior Copywriter: Kristina Saliba
VP, Group Strategy Director: Erin Swenson Gorrall
Strategist: Carol Cai
SVP, Group Account Director: Kay Pancheri
Account Director, Social: Stacy Carpenter
Account Supervisor, Social: Bridget Weiler
VP Group Media Director: Femaris Pena
Associate Media Director: Lauren Yetra
Paid Social Media Manager: Ben Verrill
Senior Digital Media Planner: Jaclyn Gaughan

Production Company: The Reserve Label
Agency Producer: Kristin Childers
Executive Producer: Ryann Slavin
Director: Jacob Rosenberg
Line Producer: Alex Orlovsky
Director Photography: Logan Tripplett
Aerial Director Photography/Drone Operator: John Sweeney
First AC: Adam Kirschhoffer
Sound: Jeremy Blake
Editor: Jeremy Huff
Assistant Editor: Yonah Nimmer

@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.