This China Airlines Ad Makes Travel Sound Absolutely Dreadful. And It’s a Huge Hit

You might come home chubbier, broke, pregnant or...haunted?

A young woman returns from Bangkok with a few extra pounds—but she's one of the luckier ones in this humorously counterintuitive travel spot. China Airlines
Headshot of David Griner

Airlines love to tell you all sorts of reasons to travel more, but they usually don’t mention the likelihood that you’ll get unexpectedly pregnant, injured, inked, married or plagued by a cursed keepsake.

China Airlines, on the other hand, proudly pitches these and more scenarios in its dark and cheeky new spot, “What Travel Brings You,” from agency Leo Burnett Taiwan.

The ad breaks just about every rule of travel marketing, bypassing bright, sunny and scenic locales in favor of a humorously bleak look at the life you return to after a vacation. While not all the scenarios are slathered in regret, they certainly all show that an international trip can have…unexpected consequences.

“You never know what travel will bring into your life,” notes the closing copy. “Let’s go find out.”

Indeed, let’s. Here’s a look at the spot:

For those (like me) who didn’t quite catch the context of the “brought from Seoul” scene, the joke seems to be that South Korea is a destination known for easy access to plastic surgery, and the woman no longer looks like her ID. Meanwhile, some Chinese viewers commented online that they didn’t understand the marriage certificate joke, a reference to Las Vegas’ reputation as a place for spur-of-the-moment and often questionable weddings.

The Chinese-language version of the spot has been viewed 6 million times on YouTube since going live last month. Across all platforms, the ad was watched nearly 9 million times in the first two weeks, according to Leo Burnett Taiwan. Comments on the video posts are overwhelmingly positive, with several viewers noting that it’s one of the first ads they remember taking the time to watch several times.

(This sort of counterintuitive travel marketing just might be a trend. Dutch airline KLM recently encouraged viewers of a recent ad to rethink whether air travel is always necessary, given how jet emissions contribute to climate change.)

China Airlines is proud of the ad’s success but doesn’t exactly describe its creative concept with the same tone of dark humor you’ll find in the spot. “Every journey may bring something new into your life,” the brand notes in a statement about the ad, “be it new knowledge, new experiences, or even a whole new life.”

“A whole new life” is certainly one way to refer to a surprise pregnancy left over from a trip to Australia’s Gold Coast, but you can’t blame a brand for trying to keep things sounding positive.

As for the agency, Leo Burnett Taiwan says the ad was created to appeal to younger millennial travelers who favor life experiences rather than just scenic destinations.

“To them, travel means something more than making friends jealous with gorgeous pics on Instagram, crossing off destinations from a wish list, or buying little key chains from far-away places,” the agency said in a statement to Adweek about the campaign. “Travel means the experience that leaves a mark on life, by changing the way we think, look, and feel, or even to change our whole life—a rich intercultural experience that can impact the lives of young travelers.”

The spot follows another entertainingly grim ad from the airline, 2018’s “The Trip You Have Promised,” in which we see aspiring travelers confronting the guilt of trips they promised to take with family, friends or coworkers—only to let them slip out of mind until something suddenly reminds them.

Credits for the new China Airlines spot are below.


Agency: Leo Burnett Taiwan
Chief Creative Officer: Murphy Chou
Creative Director: Jin Yang
Art Director: Nana Tsai
Copywriters: Murphy Chou /Jin Yang /Chiahan Chen / April Kuo
Chief Strategy Officer: Leslie Chang
Agency Producer: Evans Kao
Chief Operating Officer: Sylvia Cheng
Account Executive: Della Chen

Production House: Yuan Yuan Production, Taipei
Director: Ging-Zim Lo
Director of Photography: John Lin
Executive Producer: Sharon Kuo
Producer: Terri Chen
Postproduction: Mind Biz Post Production
Editor: Chang Chien, Pai Mei
Sound Remixer: Allen Shih

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."