Expedia: Find Your Story

Executive Summary

In 2012, Expedia partnered with 180 LA to create an incredible campaign called Find Your Story. Most compelling about the campaign may be the inspiring and emotional commercial they used to promote it, as well as the innovative (for the time) technology they used to merge customer submitted photos into compelling videos, automatically (courtesy of Unit9). The campaign featured micro-documentaries, blogger coverage, and gains points for having multiple, compelling forms of participation. However, little remains to herald the success of this campaign, providing brands with a valuable lesson to think of the long-term impact of any campaign.

What to Learn

  • How to Promote a Campaign with a Compelling Commercial: The videos featured in the Examples section are truly remarkable. They serve as a compelling way to send an emotional message to your community. It explains the purpose of the campaign, and pulls at your heartstrings to want to participate.
  • Counterexample of the importance of content longevity: For the uniqueness and potential power of this campaign, remarkably little remains of it on the web. Compared to the Queensland “Best Job in the World” example, there is very little to show for this activation. It’s a powerful reminder to structure a campaign in a way that is focused on long-term value, rather than a brief spike. For putting in so much work, you want it to continue to drive value over time.
  • How to use multiple means of participation: Expedia hit this one on all fronts, including mini-documentaries, automated video galleries from customer photos, and extensive blogger coverage. They get points for having multiple inputs and outputs for this campaign.

Campaign Overview

  • UGC Type                   (1) Customer Photos set to Music with Overlays
                                       (2) 2-3 min Video Films
                                       (3) Blog posts with Photos

  • Duration                     6 months

  • Budget                       Unknown

  • Partners                     180 LAUnit9

  • Campaign Date         July 2012

  • Incentives                 (1) Top photos & videos featured in mini-documentaries
                                     (2) Multiple all-expense-paid, 4-night stay in Aruba
                                     (3) Multiple all-expense-paid, 4-night stay at Dreams in Los Cabos.
                                     (4) $10k for best 2-3 min Video
                                     (5) Top 10 2-3 min videos integrated into TV commercial


No results were officially posted as part of this campaign

Examples of Content Received

Detailed Description

So, I gotta say, we really had to dig around to find examples from this contest. It’s not that the campaign is old (it hales back to mid-2012, back when companies were spending oodles and oodles on Facebook Apps… jokes on them!) – as the Tourism Queensland “Best Job in the World” example shows, even ancient campaigns can stick around the interwebs forever. In fact, this distinction is one of the things I find the most interesting about this campaign. The Tourism Queensland campaign is actually OLDER than Expedia’s Find Your Story campaign by a FULL 3 YEARS!!! And yet, there is WAY more digital detritus sticking around to point to it’s existence. A big factor in this is true, honest-to-God, user generated content… but we’ll get back to that.

So Expedia kicked things off with a bang, with canons blazing on all fronts, including this truly incredible commercial. Let’s get real here: if you don’t feel some serious strings tugging on your ticker during that video, then chances are (1) you’re a zombie and your heart stopped a while back, (2) you were multi-tasking and not really taking in the commercial, or (3) you’re the Tin Man in Oz, pre-heart gift. It’s a fantastically well done commercial and gets me excited enough to Google around for a time machine so I can zip on back and throw my heart in the ring for this fantastic campaign.

The campaign, as the commercial explains, is all about capturing the great travel stories that we all have. Expedia wisely turns the microphone to their customers and asks them to share the amazing stories that (they don’t need to say explicitly) they helped make possible.

An aspect of this campaign that I appreciate is that there were multiple ways in which people, of varying levels of talent, could participate. For the most plebeian among us, Expedia provided the equivalent of bumper bowling for UGC: namely, in their [wait for it kids, this was actually a thing for a while] custom built Facebook App (Unit9 I hope your business model has evolved since then!), Expedia offered to make even the most technically challenged of us into digital rockstars, henceforth referred to as digistars…. that could be a thing right? How about DigiStars… camel case rocks! Seriously, you do have to hand it to Expedia on this as well, because the app is seriously cool – upload a few photos, select music (or upload your own) and complete the sentence “Find your…” and they’ll put together a cool video for you featuring (1) your photos, (2) your music, (3) your written phrase, and [of course] (4) a healthy dose of Expedia’s branding.

To put this in context this is back in 2012 – this sort of digital witchery was WAY ahead of its time and earned Expedia some recognition. But it didn’t stop there (this is where I picture the folks at 180 LA s*&$-ing themselves as they really pull out all the stops in their pitch) – Expedia also reached out to the more talented amongst us to participate. Expedia sponsored bloggers (for the millenials amongst you, there was this big rage around 2012 where everyone thought they could be the next Edgar A. Poe by setting up a blog on GeoCities and writing for flocks of audiences who never actually materialized) to go on trips and write & photo-up their trip. They really went after it, sending folks to Pamplona, Las Vegas, and beyond.

But… they didn’t stop there (again – imagine the 180 LA executive really building momentum at this point – I mean, this guy is REALLY selling it). Expedia enlisted the National Film Festival for Talented Youth (or, winner of the award for best-all-time acronym; NFFTY) to create 2-3 minute documentaries around the theme of Find Your Story. The documentaries are actually pretty awesome – if you haven’t checked out the example videos above what are you doing reading… this text is for when you’re bored of all the goodies above. The kids at NFFTY deserve their title, even if most won’t turn out to be Steven Spielberg – the submissions we found were pretty well done.

And… there’s more (180 LA executive faints, and his second command has his brief moment in the sun, when he steps up and wraps up the pitch with the final humdinger of an addition): Expedia took this battle royale to social media in the equivalent of cage death matches. For example, on Twitter, bloggers were invited to compete around key words like “Innocence”, “Nirvana” and “Cojones” (I’m not making this up). And Expedia put some oomph behind this – all-expense-paid trip to Aruba! This was also Expedia’s first foray into Pinterest (which, I actually didn’t realize was that old… they were around in 2012?), having people submit photos for an all-expense-paid trip to Los Cabos.

How is that for a campaign – multiple ways to participate, big time incentives backing this up, creative people unleashed and non-creative people unleashed with child-proof scissors.

Which is why we’re so baffled that the digital archives are a ghost town, complete with 16-bit tumbleweed jerking across the screen in pixels. We included a few examples above, but there’s not a lot to find on the interwebs about this one. The stuff we did find (as featured above) is top-knotch. LOTS of production value (especially when compared to Tourism Queensland content). But in comparing the two in terms of content, little has survived the test of time.

Which is why one of our biggest takeaways from this campaign is to run a campaign or contest in such a way that you maximize the long-term impact of the campaign. Survivable media produces on an going SEO boost, as well as a continuous (albeit decaying over time) source of traffic for your website. Enduring media assets are something you can use – for years – in presentations and across your website and digital presence.


  • https://viewfinder.expedia.com/news/expedia-prompts-travelers-to-find-yours-in-new-brand-campaign-celebrating-the-transformative-power-of-travel/
  • https://www.fastcompany.com/1682365/expedia-encourages-you-to-find-your-story-with-new-app