Y&R’s Puppets Promote Travel Service

CHICAGO Young & Rubicam’s first work for Orbitz employs marionettes showing how the online travel service’s staff solves people’s budget constraints and helps them reach their destinations.

Three 30-second ads break nationally on Monday on cable television news, lifestyle and entertainment channels. The tagless campaign features an Orbitz blimp that acts as the command center for the puppets, said Ken Erke, the Chicago agency’s creative director and copywriter on the spots.

The client’s dedicated staff, portrayed by the puppets, is presented in a James Bond-like fashion. They have missions to accomplish, such as getting a father to his son’s birthday party in time. “Another mission accomplished,” one of the puppets says at the end of each spot. In another ad, the characters come to the aid of a teacher on a tight budget that wants to go on a Hawaiian vacation. “Our teacher will be sipping Mai Tai’s in no time,” a puppet says.

“We found through focus groups that people didn’t like the idea of knowing the real people behind the Web site,” Erke said. To still showcase the client’s employees, Y&R decided to use puppets. Coordinating their on-camera interaction were director Roman Coppola of The Director’s Bureau, Los Angeles, and Rick Lazzarini, creature effects designer at The Character Shop, also in Los Angeles. Y&R creative director Blake Ebel was the art director on the campaign.

Previous advertising from Fusion Idea Lab, Chicago, employed animation with colorful depictions of the Eiffel Tower and other popular travel destinations. The tagline: “Visit planet Orbitz.”

Orbitz awarded its $30 million account to Y&R earlier this year, following a review involving several Chicago agencies. Fusion Idea Lab declined to participate in that pitch.

Orbitz, based in Chicago, is backed by five airlines: American, Continental, Delta, Northwest and United.