A stop-motion video with felt characters is part of Travel Portland's latest campaign, launched in late June, that's aimed at travelers a short flight away — particularly in Minneapolis, Phoenix and San Francisco.
The campaign is Travel Portland's first attempt to attract cities outside the traditional, regional driving markets, and is designed to promote exploration of the city year-round.
The second part of the campaign is the You-Can-O-Mizer, which highlights what "you can" do in Portland. It's a playful Sasquatch, see page 5, which website visitors can spin and see a numerous variety of accessories — with 1,296 possible combinations — that represent activities around town, or reachable by day trip. It was created by ThinkShout, a Portland-based website designer.
The stop-motion video represents the spirit of the city and was conceptualized by Travel Portland's advertising agency, Wieden+Kennedy Portland, and handcrafted by Portland-based animation studio HouseSpecial.
"Portland is a city that is full of possibilities and authentic experiences. It is distinctive from our target markets and has much to offer visitors here for the weekend or the week," said Jeff Miller, president and CEO of Travel Portland. "By augmenting creative storytelling with hand-crafted elements, we're introducing the city's depth and breadth of adventures and attractions to new audiences in a way that epitomizes Portland."
Travel Portland, the official destination marketing organization for the City of Portland, has a mission to strengthen the local economy by marketing the Greater Portland region as a preferred destination for meetings, conventions and leisure travel.
"With 'You can' running in Minneapolis, Phoenix and San Francisco, Travel Portland is poised to inform new audiences about the many treasures of Portland from delicious food to more craft breweries than any other city on the planet to a vibrant artist community and live-and-let-live culture," Miller said. "We think the campaign will inspire more travelers to explore the city, increase demand across our local tourism industry and continue to build Portland's reputation as a premier travel destination."
Travel Portland analyses the impact of every visitor on Portland's economy, using the number of nights spent here in hotel rooms and the number of jobs the tourism industry supports. During 2016, Travel Portland estimates the tourism industry created $5 billion in taxable revenue, and supported 30,000 jobs.
Kate Diglio is the art director at Wieden+Kennedy, Travel Portland's advertising agency. They conceptualized the stop-motion video and the You-Can-O-Mizer.
"The maker culture in Portland is an essential component to the city's personality and industries," Diglio said. "Everyone who runs a business in the city has a care in craft and process, we just try to reflect that ethos ... (the campaign highlights) the DIY personality of the city with tactile materials and visible brush strokes, literally and figuratively."
The concept behind the You-Can-O-Mizer, which looks like a spin-a-sasquatch, is an interactive way for people to "try on the many hats of Portland," according to Diglio.
"No matter what your interests or style, there's something in Portland you'll enjoy — and even more to enjoy if you allow in a little randomness," Diglio said.
HouseSpecial brought the video to life, and ThinkShout brought the You-Can-O-Mizer to life.
Thomas King is the director of strategy at ThinkShout.
"A big differentiator is the quality and authenticity of Travel Portland's editorial," King said, comparing its services to Yelp! or Google Maps. "Early in the process of developing the Travel Portland website, our strategy was to move away from the insider pay-to-play mentality that bogged down DMOs (destination management organizations) in the past, and focus on writing about the very best Portland has to offer."
King said even his colleagues who have always lived in Portland still use the Travel Portland site, especially when they have visitors coming.
"The recent 'You can, in Portland' campaign was developed with the understanding that we had to keep pushing technically," King said. "There's a challenge implicit in building on past success in the sense that you don't want to parrot yourself, but every diversion or new direction presents a risk of sliding backward. Portland itself presents increasing design challenges as it becomes better known and more widely known nationally and globally: you have to play with and against those perceptions."
He wanted to illustrate how people can enjoy the city through surprises, in ways they wouldn't have imagined for themselves.
"The prevailing strategy behind this campaign was to position Portland as a place where you can still be surprised and discover something about yourself in contrast to the sea of sameness in other cities," King said. "We tried to build a very simple, intuitive interaction that had a degree of randomness to it — as if to say when you walk out the door in Portland you have no idea what awaits you."
The series of 6-, 15- and 30-second stop-motion animations took the work of 28 Portland artists — including an art director, director, three animators, stage crew members and editorial and production support — to complete.
The series director Mark Gustafson of HouseSpecial animation studio is well known for his work as animation director of Wes Anderson's "The Fantastic Mr. Fox."
Gustafson has also worked on ad campaigns for Haagen-Dazs and Planters, among a couple hundred more — but those are mostly L.A.- or New York-based.
"This one was particularly fun because it was just pure storytelling, and it was kind of wide open at the beginning," Gustafson said. "I got a lot of leeway for creativity for this one, it wasn't a lot of close-ups of deoderant sticks and smiling, ethnically ambiguous mothers and their children."
It took about 17 weeks and 7,865 hours of labor to produce 8,500 frames.
"The fun part about these sets was that engineering and working with the art director here to really plan all that out," Gustafson said. "They (W-K) had to trust us too because again, you don't just build something and go here it is, here's what it's going to look like. You had to build all kinds of additional mechanisms and things that work with the set."
He took inspiration from theater, and didn't use a lot of digital effects.
"We thought about if you were sitting in an audience and watching this happen on a stage, how would you get it done, how would you engineer that?" Gustafson said. "We wanted to do it in camera, we didn't want to use a lot of digital effects to create these transitions. We had to engineer them and really figure all that out before we shot."
The elaborate sets fold into each other in 24 frames per second, against hand-painted backdrops.
"Each one was a unique challenge in that we couldn't just make a set and light it, knowing we were going to have to transition that set into another set, there was all this area in between where it wasn't either set — it was some combination of the two," Gustafson said. "Since we did do it physically, that required us to really think in a very different way."
There's a farmer's market, food carts and a scene at the Rose Gardens, among more.
"I really like the transition to Forest Park, that we went there where it's Forest Park and Powell's and it's the Schnitz," Gustafson said. "Going between those three in some ways was the most complicated thing for us to figure out, but at the same time quite satisfying once we got it."
The felt material of the puppets magnifies the makers culture here.
"We used all sorts of materials on this. The characters were felt, which was something relatively new for us," Gustafson said. "I like it because I like the way the light fell on them, the way it really makes them feel like puppets, makes them tactile and approachable."
They had to walk the streets of Portland doign research, looking for character types and sets.
"It was a good excuse to go to some of these places just to check them out," Gustafson said. "Of course, I had to go try the beer — actually I had to do that on more than one occasion to be sure I had it right."
They had to make a ton of props from container of strawberries to flowers to salmon.
"It was a really fun one to do, one of the most fun commercials that I've worked on in I'd say a few years just because on the one hand it was here in Portland: the agency was here, the client was here and the product was here," Gustafson said. "I hope that they (potential tourists) see Portland as an interesting place to visit, that they want to come here and check it out — and hopefully go back to wherever they live."