2018 Brand Experience & Activation


Category D01. Touchpoint Technology & Tech-led Brand Experience
Name Company Position
Rob Doubal McCann London Co-President and Chief Creative Officer
Laurence Thomson McCann London Co-President and Chief Creative Officer
Matt Searle McCann London Copywriter
Olly Wood McCann London Art Director
Enrique Tourguet McCann London Creative
Manuel Castillo McCann London Creative
Dom Butler McCann London Case Study Creative
Francois d'Espagnac McCann London Account Director
Simon Ward McCann London Project Manager
Nick O'Quinn McCann London Planner
Andrei Andreescu Andrei Andreescu Developer
Matthew Thomas McCann London Designer
Sergio Lopez Craft/McCann Chief Production Officer
Sophie Chapman-Andrews Craft/McCann Executive Producer
Tom Ayling Craft/McCann Producer
Paul Jenkinson Craft/McCann Editor
Giselle Hall Craft/McCann Sound Engineer

Why is this work relevant for Brand Experience & Activation ?

Desktop Escape took the Kayak brand and service experience to a platform people look at every day. Innovating how we use our desktop wallpapers, building on our existing behavior of setting our background to a beautiful destination, now with the added benefit of being able to book a flight to that very destination. A completely immersive, retail and 360° customer engagement. The tool increased brand affinity among the thousands of users because the value exchange was in their favour – cheaper flights and beautiful wallpapers automatically updating as often as they like. An unobtrusive value adding brand experience.


Kayak’s brief was to solidify their position as a pioneer in the travel-booking industry and to demonstrate the brand’s booking innovation and seamless purchase experience to a global audience. Hacking the customer journey provided more opportunity than traditional media channels. The target audience insight that people are time-poor, work for escape, and search for inspiration on a daily basis, made the desktop wallpaper prime for innovation by Kayak, to place them top-of-mind for travel, from inspiration through to purchase. The desktop was a powerful untapped medium with unprecedented dwell times of 7 hours a day for the average worker, and where two-thirds of flight bookings are still made. Here users already value travel inspiration and escape but wallpapers have not innovated to new behaviours. Shortening the purchase funnel between inspiration and retail in a new integrated platform that was already used by millions every day would meet business objectives.

Describe the creative idea

On average workers spend 7 hours a day in front of a computer, where their only escape is wallpaper imagery on their desktop. Kayak’s smart wallpaper tool turned this existing behavior into a new retail space with unparalleled dwell time; by displaying wallpapers with the cheapest flights to each destination from your nearest airport, using real-time data. The instantly bookable escapes put Kayak’s service before a captive audience for over a million hours and directly linked travel inspiration to purchase. Transforming an untapped medium that has been staring us all in the face for decades. By creating the first smart desktop wallpaper tool, Kayak implemented the first update in wallpapers. ‘Desktop Escape’ combined media, inspiration and retail in a new integrated and unobtrusive brand platform. This space could host the seamless straightforward path to purchase from being inspired to purchasing flights in a single touchpoint with a single click.

Describe the strategy

Workers already search for escape with millions of searches for travel wallpaper from their desktops. Staring them – and us – in the face was 7 hours of untapped media space, that could display Kayak’s innovation in a seamless booking experience. By driving time-poor workers to download with Google Keywords (for travel wallpapers, new inspiration & flight search) we saved people money on flights, time searching for wallpapers, and continue to inspire thousands of potential customers every day. The desktop wallpaper was a space already devoted to far-flung destinations and holiday dreaming, but no travel brand owned this space. With innovation so integral to Kayak, they were the most fitting brand to take on this new medium and turn it into a media, retail and inspirational space. Kayak’s primary value to consumers has always been to inspire users to find the cheapest flights in the most streamlined and straightforward manner.

Describe the execution

We developed the tool from user journey to the current version that is now installed on thousands of Windows and Mac desktops. The aim was to make the experience as seamless and hassle free as using the Kayak website to book your flights. We distilled the user journey into a three-step process – download from Kayak’s landing page, select nearest airport, and how often the wallpapers change. Automated from there on using real-time data and GPS, meaning a fed-up worker could see a picture of Sao Paulo and instantly book an escape in the desktop. Kayak, with their seamless innovation, were able to turn changing your wallpaper into one download for an unlimited flow of beautiful images. Open source images, carefully selected to cover both popular destinations and lesser known to inspire travel further afield. Kayak’s engine elegantly sat on the desktop always inspiring, constantly offering the possibility of booking.

List the results

The campaign achieved far greater results than our media budget would have allowed in traditional media, with over 71 million impressions and $10 million in earned media. That’s just PR, and without including the one million hours and counting in dwell time we have earned in front of users who have downloaded the smart Kayak tool to their desktops. With innovation so integral to Kayak, they were the most fitting brand, and the first travel brand to take on this new medium and turn it into an inspirational retail space, creating a host of ‘firsts’. The first desktop booking engine. The first desktop with real-time data drawn from all around the world. ‘Seamless path to purchase’ – Contagious ‘Wanderlust from the cubicle’ – Business Insider ‘Desktop booking still dominates’ – PhocusWire ‘We hope this isn't an April Fools' Day joke, because it's kind of genius.’ - Conde Nast