Air Canada's Gift of Home

While Air Canada was Canadian travellers' top airline for functional reasons, it was not their passionate first choice. In fact, WestJet owned more emotional capital from Canadians.

The team at J. Walter Thompson needed to turn Canadians' preference into passion — in this case, earning share of heart and pride during the Christmas holiday season. And, it needed to make Air Canada employees and stakeholders feel good about the brand and organization too.

The "AC Gift of Home" campaign drew from the insight that, as the holidays approach, Canadians turn their minds to thoughts of togetherness and making the journey home to loved ones, but many are unable to make that trip every year.

JWT set out to capture the spirit of the season by enlisting Air Canada employees to execute a surprise that would give homesick Canadian expats the opportunity to get home for the holidays.

During an evening in November, Air Canada went to one of the world's most popular unofficial Canadian "embassies" — the Maple Leaf Pub in London, England. Packed with Canadian expats expecting to be part of a documentary on Canadians living abroad, the brand surprised them with round-trip tickets for everyone present to return to Canada for the holidays.

Eleven hidden cameras and three cameramen documented the surprise unfolding, including the spontaneous tears of joy, expressions of goodwill and appreciation, and even a rousing rendition of O Canada!

Video of the event launched on YouTube in early December, which led to social buzz with the hashtag #ACGiftofHome. Soon Canadians all over the world were viewing and sharing the holiday-relevant content.

Within a week, the Gift of Home YouTube video had been viewed more than 3.2 million times. Air Canada also earned a record-high 98% brand sentiment score via Radian6 (its norm is approximately 50-67%).

Gift of Home also earned widespread media pickup and PR, along with organic social media sharing from prominent Canadians.