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Expedia Sends Santa Around The World—In Coach!—To Benefit Sick Kids

Is that Santa in seat 14B? Indeed it is.

Regardless of how much you travel for work or pleasure it’s pretty much certain you’re not as well traveled as one jolly individual. Though his travel is reserved to one day of the year, Santa Claus logs more annual miles than anyone on earth. Now, if only his sleigh with eight tiny reindeer offered frequent flier rewards!

But what if he did? That’s the scenario imagined by Expedia for its Christmas campaign that highlight’s the brand’s relationship with St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. In "Santa Flies Coach," rather than deliver gifts to the world’s children via his own private aircraft, Santa circumnavigates the globe by plane—to demonstrate that travel points earned through Expedia can be donated to the kids of St. Jude’s

"No one travels more miles during the holidays than Santa Claus. This year, we thought it would be good to let him actually earn points for all those miles as he flies around the world so we he had him ditch his sleigh and ride coach like the rest of us," says Dave Horton, creative director at 180 LA, the agency behind the work. "We wanted to show that everyone who travels for the holidays can donate the points they rack up to St. Jude through Expedia."

Expedia has been a long-standing partner of St Jude’s Children Research Hospital, and over the years Expedia has donated money and resources to the organization, says Vic Walia, Expedia’s senior director of brand marketing. In 2012, Expedia expanded its relationship with St Jude with its "Find Your Strength campaign, which showed the unbreakable bond between two St. Jude patients. "For 2014, the brief was to show how every traveler can help the children of St. Jude by simply donating the points that they collect," Walia says.

So, over the course of one week "Santa" hauled his sack of toys on flight after flight, with stops in Hawaii, Tokyo, Dubai, Paris and Dublin. He endures lines and security checks, get thronged by fans in Tokyo and throws back a pint (of milk, natch) in a Irish pub all before landing in Memphis, Tenn., to spread cheer at St. Jude’s. Surprisingly, his sack was never checked to see if it met carry-on standards, though.

Horton says that, in fact, the journey that plays out through the 3-minute film was arduous. In order to make it around the world in a week, Santa and his crew spent most of their hours on a plane. "When we weren’t in the air we were in an airport getting ready to get back on another plane. There was nothing glamorous about this trip. Santa earned every one of those points."

As exhausting as it was, Horton insists it was "100 times more rewarding." "It was inspiring to see how people around the world responded to Santa—universally people love him. It was a view of the world through rose-colored glasses—walking the line of the fantasy world of Santa and seeing the joy just his presence brought to people, young and old. Everywhere we went people were so generous and kind to us."

In Tokyo, Santa was the ultimate celeb, thronged by people who wanted a photo with him or a squishy hug. In Dubai, airport passengers compared beards with Saint Nick and shouted out "ho ho ho" and "Merry Christmas." But Horton says the best moment of the journey came when his kids were able to talk with Santa. "Personally, I am a hero at my house with my kids because they got to Facetime with Santa while Dad was traveling the world with Santa this year."

And lighting up a kid’s day is ultimately what the whole campaign is about. The worldwide trip was more than just a way to cleverly illustrate how Expedia passengers can help St. Jude’s. Santa himself actually accumulated points for his entire journey, which have been donated to the hospital.

"Santa’s trip to accumulate points was what we hope is just the beginning to support this program," says Horton. "While you don't have to fly around the world, you can certainly donate the points you do have or are going to earn this holiday season. Donations are so important to St Jude—donations are the reason that no family is ever asked to pay for treatment. Expedia’s rewards program provides such a unique offering and makes it easy to donate to St. Jude without ever having to open your wallet. Everyone should do it."

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