CHICAGO – Airstream has been making its instantly recognizable brand of travel trailers with their distinctive rounded shape and polished aluminum look since the 1930s. With their new fiberglass travel trailer, Nest, Airstream explored a new market while pushing the design envelope. The compact, easy-to-tow Nest is unlike anything else in the travel trailer world, necessitating a suitably creative marketing approach. Airstream and its creative agency Upward Brand Interactions, Dayton, OH, turned to Calabash (http://calabashanimation.com) to create a pair of animated hummingbird characters named Gigi and Dave that serve as tour guides in the new online campaign.
“The expectations for the launch of the Airstream Nest were very high and so we wanted to make sure that we had partners that could provide both creativity and technical expertise,” says Jean Silverstein, senior client strategist at Upward Brand Interactions, one of Airstream’s creative agencies. “Calabash was an ideal partner for this project because they were extremely flexible to work with and their animation did a great job bringing the creative direction to life through the Dave and Gigi characters. They were truly instrumental in the success of this launch.”
For Sean Henry, Calabash’s executive producer, the choice of hummingbird characters was a natural decision for the Airstream Nest. “Hummingbirds are just fun – they are fast and graceful and embody the freedom of movement that is central to what Nest is.”
Calabash creative director Wayne Brejcha agrees, “We liked the client’s choice of hummingbirds, little precise jewels of Mother Nature. That fits with Nest nicely.”
Birds’ Eye View
The first one-minute spot (several others will follow), entitled simply “Introducing Nest,” and running both on the company’s website, social media channels, on kiosks in Airstream showrooms and auto/RV trade shows, opens with our married hummingbird couple Gigi and Dave debating whether a particular tree will make a good nest location. Dave loves it because it’s so “branchy,” but Gigi calls it “pedestrian,” which leads them to look elsewhere and discover an Airstream Nest nearby.
As they fly in for a closer look, the witty dialogue continues with Dave loving it because it’s all “roundy.” From there, Gigi and Dave take a tour of the Nest both inside and out and are thoroughly impressed. One particularly amusing shot shows Dave testing out the Nest’s bed by falling gently onto the mattress and stretching out while gazing through the moon roof above.
Although the project was full of creative challenges, such as how to depict the speed with which hummingbirds’ wings flap (and yes they did study nature documentaries to accurately capture the specific figure-eight patterns hummingbird wings make in flight), as well as how big the notoriously tiny birds should appear when next to or inside the Nest. For Brejcha the key to the spot’s success centered on finding the balance between reality and a cartoon feel.
“Character animation has the flexibility to be both silly and sophisticated. With Airstream we were aiming for something towards sophisticated and realistic,” Brejcha says. “But we also needed the birds to break out of strict nature, to do playful or human things. Defining their unique mix of silly and photo-real was a fun challenge for us and the agency creatives.”
Henry adds, “The client appreciated the care our CG team put into making the spots look as great as possible. Our artists and animators gave Gigi and Dave realism as well as personality, and yet the animation draws attention to the cool features of the Nest without being distracting. It’s an excellent example of some of the broadcast-quality work we are creating that is solely for the web.”