I just knew that Travelocity's advertising agency got the idea for its traveling gnome from the movie "Amelie." But, I was wrong.
Amelie, by the way, is a wonderfully entertaining movie if you can get beyond the fact that it's French. In the movie Amelie is a very clever girl who plays delightful little tricks on people. And, in one of them, she swiped a gnome from her father's garden. Then the dad gets these post cards with pictures of the gnome in exotic places. All of this was to encourage the dad to get out and do some traveling himself.
But, back to the point. I was sure that Travelocity's ad agency "borrowed" the idea from the movie. But, the "Advert Mailbox" in today's print edition of the Wall Street Journal has the following explanation:
The idea for both gnomes actually comes from an Australian prank that took place in the mid-1980s. According to Joel Frey, a Travelocity spokesman, legend has it that one Australian thought it would be funny to rip off his neighbor's garden gnome, and then send back pictures from the destinations to which it was taken. "It's not something that's original to 'Amelie' and it's not something that's original to us. The only thing original to us is the gnome that we are using," says Mr. Frey. Travelocity had 50 of the 18 inch, 12 pound creatures made when its current ad effort, designed by Havas's McKinney + Silver, started in December 2003.
Well, it was a clever idea whosever it was. Oh, did I mention that "Amelie" is a great movie?
Updated one year later: Turns out there's an another possible source for the idea. It's the Harry Hood caper that took place in Boston in the 70's. You can read about at this web journal in an entry titled The idea for Travelocity's Roaming Gnome - another theory. It's a fascinating story!