Wishing you ‘Flamingo Voinjma Flugplatz’

A new Expedia print campaign from Ogilvy uses airport IATA codes to great effect: just don’t expect to see any references to Fukuoka…

expedia_569_0.jpg - Wishing you 'Flamingo Voinjma Flugplatz' - 5004

A new Expedia print campaign from Ogilvy uses airport IATA codes to great effect: just don’t expect to see any references to Fukuoka…

The campaign was created by Jon Morgan and Mike Watson. “It all started when we saw a woman walking through Heathrow with the word FUK hanging from her suitcase,” they say. “Turned out she’d just flown in from Fukuoka in Japan. That got us thinking, ‘maybe there are more’.”

Indeed there were – over 9,000 airports around the world, each with its own 3-letter IATA code used to identify the destination of bags.


“We trawled through each and every one looking for useable words, half-words and ‘almost words’,” the team say. “It’s amazing what the brain pieces together and makes sense of.”

So did they write the copylines to fit the available codes or vice versa? “Some just happened straight away, some we went looking for like WSH EWE WRE ERE [Brookhaven, Ewer Indonesia, Whangarei, Erave] and SUN SEA SND SEX [Sun Valley, Seattle, Seno, Sembach] as they were travel specific,” they explain.



“Others came from writing all the useable codes we could find on a huge sheet of paper and just slogging away until words or phrases made us smile. Each code is real, we tried to get real tags but each one is numbered for security reasons so we made faithful reproductions to get round the problem. We designed, printed, aged and then photographed, took a long time but we wanted it to be as real as it could be.

“At one point we had 36 ads mocked-up. 9 executions eventually ran. There were some amazingly rude ones, which unfortunately will never see the light of day…”


Ad agency: Ogilvy
Copywriter: Jon Morgan
Art director: Mike Watson
ECD: Gerry Human
CD: Paul Mason
CD: Mark Harrison
Design: Mark Osborne
Retouching: Trevor Qizilbash
Traffic: Grant Mason, Peter Nuttal


When I saw this work from Ogilvy my first thought was ‘this is such a great idea, surely it must have been done before’. I couldn’t remember seeing anything, though, and a search through recent awards books and via Google images revealed nothing. However, Luerzer’s Archive editor-in-chief Michael Weinzettl has recently posted this BBDO Düsseldorf ad for Bayer Aspirin which featured in the magazine last year and which, yes, uses IATA codes.

There’s no suggestion that anyone involved in the Expedia work was aware of this ad. Mike Watson tells me that he had never seen it before and that, after coming up with the idea, they had conducted a search which turned up nothing. I also have some doubts about the Bayer ad’s veracity. Would a genuine ad be allowed to feature the logo of a different brand (Lufthansa) so clearly? And where is all the small print/disclaimer text required for pharmaceuticals? Hmmm. Patrick Burgoyne, CR

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  • Pete

    Simple and effective, very nice.

  • Kate

    I just love them, very cleaver.

  • Love this.

  • witty!
    smart messages that don’t leave you feeling scammed..

  • This is cool, love it!

  • Fantastic. Great idea, brilliant copywriting, beautifully and simply executed. Has to be a good bet for the upcoming awards season…

  • If you want to work out the ‘extremely rude ones’, here’s a good place to start http://www.world-airport-codes.com/ Although someone has preempted this game and made Funchal FNC :-(

  • Brilliant work!

  • Fantastic work!

  • Love seeing some genuinely creative work! Well done guys!

  • Anna Collier

    I love this! Really refreshing to see such a single-minded, yet creative idea executed so simply.

  • Geoff Naylor


  • Tim Masters

    Great to see truly creative work, beautifully executed.

  • I absolutely love these. Seen them in Canary Wharf. Simple but they catch your eye.

  • j

    its not flugplatz but flughafen.

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ j
    Look at the picture. The code refers to Flugplatz Wangerooge or just Flugplatz as it is listed on some sites and on the label.

  • Brilliant!

  • Elizabeth Kealy-Morris

    Love the use of security hell reality to play with the fantasy of escape, works on many levels…love the quirky stamps which contextualise the statement in the tags. Wonderful to see words played with in such a simple but strong way. The execution belies the hard work that has gone into the campaign. Am going to share this with my students right now….


  • monogram

    How very This Is Real Art. Which is a compliment.

  • Simple, understanable, recognisable and brilliantly executed.

  • Award winning. Brilliant idea. So simple and effective.

  • Tom

    How could Sioux City, Iowa (SUX) not be included. Several other airports could be paired with this, including Bancroft, Ontaio Candad, which would give you … WRK SUX (ironically as many of us are reading and commenting on this at work.).

  • Amazing art direction. Always collected this stickers for typographic reasons (i once even fixed a broken bag)
    Would have loved to read texts with codes we all know: MAD (Madrid) MAN (Manchester) rather than cities nobody goes to (wich looks more like a fake ad (trucho))

  • Theresa W

    Who was the retoucher?? Great work, well done to him!!

  • Well thought out and very clever. It looks so simple and so effective yet it must have taken loads of time, but I bet it was fun though.

  • fpp
  • So clever. Simple and effective

  • Todd

    I think the original idea lives in Green Bay, WI.


  • J Lantta

    In February, 2011, I flew from Austin, TX, to my hometown of Green Bay, WI, to watch, with friends and family, the Packers play in Super Bowl XLV. As I walked through the terminal of Austin Straubel International Airport, I was greeted by a smart promotional campaign. Above me, waved pairs of banners, shaped like luggage tags; one pair read WEL COM, another FLY GRB, while another seemed to know exactly why I was there, they read PKR FAN. Floor decals, of the same shape read GRB THX YOU. When the Champions returned home, to an airport full of adoring, cheering fans, their luggage tags read SPR BWL and TTL TWN.

    While the campaign didn’t use actual IATA Codes, to promote the airport and community, it was certainly inventive enough to get noticed.

  • EWDC

    Excellent execution of an old idea.

  • Nic

    Loving this! So simple but really effective.

  • Simple, concise and yet very creative and effective. Good on Expedia for incorporating something that’s an integral part of air travel that most of us don’t care to notice the majority of the time.

  • Who was the photographer?

  • Very clever. Love it!

  • Aed

    Where did they put this work?

  • Kevin

    I’ve seen these all over London – at shopping centres, tube stations and billboards. No idea if there are being used anywhere else in the U.K.

    What a charming back handed compliment – you must be very proud.

  • Pippa Watson

    Haha Mike Watson is my dad and i love these adverts