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…

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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