With Shanghai expecting 70 million visitors for its historic 2010 World Expo, some of the world's most prominent companies are staging memorable ads at the 242 displays, representing 192 nations and 50 international organizations. The six-month expo, which opened May 1 and runs until Oct. 31, presented American Airlines with the perfect opportunity to promote its brand in general, and its nonstop service from Beijing and Shanghai to Chicago, in particular. The airline giant, through the creative team at TM Advertising, American's long-standing agency of record, enlisted Blind to produce a memorable spot that will air in multiple locations, including the huge outdoor screen at the USA Pavilion and as in-flight entertainment on selected international American Airlines flights.
"This was a terrific opportunity to work on a project that transcended the broadcast realm and would be designed for multiple uses in some exciting new spaces," noted Blind EP Dave Kleinman. "Also, as this is China's first time hosting the World Expo, TM Advertising and American Airlines wanted to seize the opportunity to deliver exactly the right message to millions of potential new customers. That they would trust Blind with this extremely high-profile project speaks well of the incredible team we've assembled here."
Working with TM Advertising, Director Erik Buth led the Blind team that handled all the spot's production and post. Journey is a beautifully colored, wistful, animated spot, which tells the soundless story of a stylized paper airplane's adventures: From the hand of a little girl on a footbridge in Jingshan Park in Beijing, past watercolor sketches of Shanghai's soaring skyline and the Great Wall of China, on to its graceful transformation into an American Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft charging through the sky, through its subsequent change back to a humble folded form, onto its flight past drawings of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Statue of Liberty , and to its final destination on the front porch of a tranquil suburban American home. The video imaginatively captures American's role as a leading global airline, bridging cultures and bringing people together of all nations.
After selecting the ideal Chinese and American landmarks to represent the two nations, Buth and his team created the watercolor paintings to establish a color palette and style direction for the backgrounds, setting the tone for the entire piece. Blind then created several animatics and worked closely with the agency to arrive at the final clean, iconic background look.
To prepare the piece to air in multiple formats, Blind had to pay close attention to the varying aspect ratios for each medium. They formatted the video to fit both a 2.35:1 and a 16:9 aspect ratio, keeping in mind that American Airlines might need to crop the video to make 16x9 or 4x3 versions for alternate uses. They also designed the piece to be compatible with the giant screen's 1024X400 pixel ratio.
The agency approached Blind with presentation specifications, including the idea for the paper airplane.
"American Airlines wanted to create a piece that didn't feel like an ad at all - that was an aesthetically pleasing branded art piece that told an interesting story," stated Buth. "A paper airplane acted as the perfect metaphor to tell this story, and it also gave us far more options creatively. The creatives at TM Advertising contacted us after seeing similar work I'd done for the Los Angeles Marathon a few years ago, so right from the start they were open to our ideas and were very easy to work with throughout the process."