You can tell that travel is back on the menu when countries and airlines are aggressively advertising to lure you to your favourite destinations. And while it won’t take much convincing to get us to dust off our passports, seeing how these travel ads take flight is one of the little joys that will warm any wanderlusting globetrotter’s heart.
To take you on a trip down memory lane, we take a look at some of the best travel ads to ever grace our screens from the past to the present.
1. Tourism Malaysia – Malaysia, Truly Asia
One of the most iconic campaigns here in Southeast Asia is Malaysia, Truly Asia. It was envisioned by theD agency Integrated Strategic Communications way back in 1999, and is one of the most awarded and recognised tourism campaigns to come out from Malaysia even today nearly 30 years later.
Through its many activations and plenty of television commercials, the Malaysia, Truly Asia campaign promoted the country as a destination with cultures and wonders to see and soak in. And it’s hard to not “sing” the tagline whenever it comes to mind.
2. VISA – Travel Happy
If you’ve ever caught a movie in a cinema around the late 2000s and early 2010s, you might have seen a commercial of a man dancing around the world. That guy is Matt Harding, one of the OG “influencers” who went viral after a compilation of him dancing in different countries went viral on YouTube.
What started out as a fun thing to do on his travels became one of the first Internet phenomenons with VISA eventually getting him to be the face of their Travel Happy campaign. From Singapore to Japan to Hollywood, Matt’s presence spoke a universal language: dance.
His little dancing jig accompanied by the locals sent the message travel and dance will always be on the cards no matter what cultural barriers might exist between people.
3. Tourism Australia – Best Job In The World
Young adults are always on the hunt for the best job in the world, and Australia was more than happy to give it to them back in 2009. Tourism Queensland and agency SapientNitro – now Publicis Sapient – came together to launch the Best Job in the World campaign.
The role was a six-month contract to be a caretaker to the beautiful islands around the Great Barrier Reef. Throw in a A$150,000 salary, a luxury villa, and a job scope that required you to write one single blog post a week, and you can guarantee every traveller worth their salt was rushing to apply for this opportunity.
Winner of the Best Job in the World Ben Southalll jet skiing in Queensland
Image credit: Queensland.com
Over 34,000 applicants submitted a 60-second clip in an attempt to score the job, but the results were far greater than what Tourism Queensland and SapientNitro expected.
The campaign’s website saw more than 6.8 million unique monthly visitors with almost 54 million page views; 46,000 mainstream media stories and 230,000 blog posts were written; and another 4 million people watched BBC’s documentary about the campaign. All this coverage was secured with just a budget of US$1.2 million that was spent on recruitment ads.
Winner of the role Ben Southall even appeared on Oprah for a 10-minute segment. Impressive.
4. Singapore Airlines – In-flight video
While not technically a travel ad, Singapore Airlines’ 2017 in-flight video is still a piece of content that just makes you want to fly with them.
Created in conjunction with Singapore Tourism Board and agency TBWA Singapore, the campaign redefines how an educational video can be something aesthetic and memorable. Rather than showing the interior of a plane, the safety video transports viewers and passengers into some of our Little Red Dot’s most beautiful attractions like The Intan Peranakan Museum and Henderson Waves.
Image credit: Singapore Airlines
Since its release in 2017, millions of passengers have seen the video on their Singapore Airlines flights plus two million more on YouTube. It has also bagged multiple accolades from the Gong Awards and Creative Circle Awards. If you haven’t watched it, we highly suggest you do, especially if you want your heart strings pulled.
5. Discover Ireland – Doors of Thrones
Despite the fiasco that was Game of Thrones, the show still gave us spectacular shots from around the world. One of these landscapes was Northern Ireland’s Dark Hedges which was the backdrop for the Kingsway in the show. When a storm knocked down two of the trees, Tourism Ireland, agencies Publicis and Carat, and HBO came together to fashion doors from the lumber.
Image credit: Ireland.com
Ten imposing doors with intricate carvings were made from the felled trees as part of the Doors of Thrones campaign. These were then placed in pubs, inns, and hotels near iconic filming locations in the country so fans can still “pay their respects” when they visit and stay at these places.
For their creative thinking, the campaign walked away with three awards from the highly-regarded Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Valar Morghulis.
6. Travel Oregon – Only Slightly Exaggerated
Too often travel ads rely on pretty images. And while that’s not an issue, Travel Oregon bucked this stereotype by giving their state the Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli anime treatment.
Image credit: Wieden+Kennedy
In their 2018 campaign Only Slightly Exaggerated, they worked with agencies Wieden+Kennedy along with the studios Psyop and Sun Creature to visualise the Oregonian landscape in the style of classic Ghibli movies. The whimsical style of the animated films coupled with the otherworldly landscapes in Oregon made them a perfect match.
Image credit: Wieden+Kennedy
7. Qantas – I Still Call Australia Home
Most travel campaigns are targeted at people who have never visited a country. However, as travel resumes after Covid-19, Qantas is appealing to Australians again on the 35th anniversary of their I Still Call Australia Home campaign.
Filming of the latest I Still Call Australia Home campaign
Image credit: Qantas
Launched first in 1987 and now returning for a 2022 edition, the latest version of the campaign stars Hugh Jackman, Kylie Minogue, Troye Sivan accompanied by the vocals of the Australian Girls Choir, National Boys Choir, and the Gondwana Choir.
The announcement of the campaign must be a bittersweet feeling for the agency The Monkeys and production house Rabbit as the scenes were filmed during pre-Covid times. Seeing it come to life on YouTube, billboards, and TV screens around Australia at last has to feel good after years of being in advertising limbo.
To put things into perspective, the song I Still Call Australia Home is Australia’s equivalent to Home by Kit Chan or Where I Belong by Tanya Chua. Now imagine the absolute slayage if that’s used in an advertisement for Singapore Airlines. Oh wait, they already did something similar back in 2021.
Iconic travel advertisements & campaigns
There’s no denying that advertising has taken a softer approach with partnerships with influencers and content creators being the norm. However, it’s still important to look back at how these advertisements made waves in both the creative industry and their impact on the mainstream travel market.
Cover image adapted from: TWAB, Wieden+Kennedy