This Guy Is Living at Helsinki Airport for 30 Days for TBWA’s #LifeInHEL Campaign

Reality TV meets game shows meets social media

He is so not leaving on a jet plane.

In what’s being billed as the world’s longest layover, Chinese influencer Ryan Zhu will be living at Helsinki Airport for the next 30 days.

This odd exercise in inertia forms the crux of TBWA’s aptly named #LifeInHEL campaign for Finnish airport operator Finavia. The goal: to demonstrate that Helsinki Airport is the very best—it scored high marks from Travelink and other surveys—and boost the facility’s profile among folks traveling between Europe and Asia.

Some of us already feel like we live at one airport or another, right? What with all those hours spent standing in lines, bawling at the baggage carousel and cramming our fat, sweaty butts into painful plastic seats.

None of that for Zhu. Dude gets to hang out in a funky pop-art shack-like structure on the concourse:

A cheeky PA announcement in the clip says, “Boarding will begin in 624 hours.” We’ve waited longer for flights a couple of times, actually.

Here’s another promo, with Zhu wedged inside a supermarket freezer (to prep for the Nordic climate, natch) and dancing around in traditional Finnish garb:

“We want to give him an unforgettable experience,” says Finavia svp of marketing Katja Siberg.

Well, stick him in a freezer. He won’t soon forget that!

Zhu’s adventures will be broadcast online each day, as he endures various challenges, competes for rewards and learns about Finnish culture.

“The campaign’s feedback will be extremely valuable in making our services even better,” Siberg says. Maybe flyers will report that Zhu’s stunt caused undue delays and confusion—who can say?

#LifeInHel was developed with Gary Carter, one of the brains behind the Survivor franchise. TBWA describes it as “a mix of reality TV, game shows and social media” and “The Terminal meets the Truman Show.” (Judging from our experience with airports, “The Terminator meets the Truman Show” might be more like it.)

Now, some might suspect that before Zhu’s 30 days in #Hel are, you know, finnished, he’ll beg for a seat on the next plane leaving for anywhere. Luckily, he’s already armed with an open return ticket home, so he can escape at any time. If he makes it through the entire month, however, he wins a trip to “magical Lapland.”

In which case, where his luggage winds up is anybody’s guess.

KLOK Creative Agency
Edelman Public Relations China
Red Bridge Communications

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@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.