Durham advertising agency McKinney has been reunited with one of its most famous creations: Travelocity’s gnome mascot.
McKinney created “The Roaming Gnome” in ads for the online travel site in 2004, but lost the account in 2010. On Thursday, McKinney announced it has once again been named Travelocity’s ad agency. Financial details weren’t disclosed.
McKinney CEO Brad Brinegar called the gnome “one of the leading icons in advertising today. We were proud of what it did for Travelocity while we were working with them, and we are thrilled that the gnome has come home.”
Brinegar admitted it was especially sweet to win back an account that the agency had lost.
“It’s relatively rare in our business for an account to come back with its old agency after it has left – particularly without a review,” he said. “I think that says a lot about Travelocity’s faith in our ability to keep the gnome powerful and thriving.”
When an account is put up for review, the client conducts a competition among multiple agencies.
The Travelocity account is the first major win announced by McKinney under its new ownership. Last week McKinney was acquired for an undisclosed price by South Korea-based Cheil Worldwide, a marketing and communications company with offices in 28 countries.
McKinney, which previously was owned by the agency’s management team, has about 200 workers and a client list that includes Nationwide Insurance, CenturyLink, Sherwin-Williams, Lenovo, Mizuno USA, Gold’s Gym, Meijer, Ruby Tuesday, Big Boss Brewing and Urban Ministries of Durham.
Brinegar said that winning the Travelocity account for the second time “has obviously been in the works for awhile” but declined to say whether McKinney already had the account sewn up before the agency was acquired by Cheil.
For the past two years Travelocity’s agency was Leo Burnett in Chicago. Its ads during that span continued to feature the roaming gnome.
Brinegar said that Travelocity’s marketing team has changed “top to bottom” since McKinney last worked on the account.
Travelocity spokesman Joel Frey declined to discuss why the company parted ways with Leo Burnett.
But he did say that Travelocity is eager to “tap into the energy and the passion and the team” at McKinney that created and nurtured the gnome.
When McKinney had the account the first time around, Frey said, “the gnome went from sort of an oddity to a well-known brand icon. ... That’s not an easy thing to achieve.”
Industry publication Advertising Age reported that Travelocity spent nearly $55 million in advertising last year, up from $47 million in 2010 but down from $80 million in 2009.
Brinegar said the gnome will remain part of Travelocity’s advertising efforts going forward. “We very much look forward to see where we can take him next,” he said.