The Roaming Gnome hails from the corporate headquarters of Travelocity located at 3150 Sabre Drive in Southlake, Texas. Travelocity, a division of Sabre, Inc., is one of the largest Internet travel sites to book tickets for airlines, hotel reservations, rental cars and travel packages.
Travelocity’s advertising mascot is The Roaming Gnome, a kidnapped garden gnome that finds itself unwitttingly taken by its captor to fun and exciting destinations around the globe.
Beginning in late 2003, The Roaming Gnome appeared in a series of ads that were created by McKinney & Silver ad agency of Raleigh, North Carolina.
The $80 million dollar ad campaign (which appeared on TV, radio, and print ads) featured a two-foot tall red-capped garden gnome who spoke with a British accent (voiced by Harry Enfield).
The statuary image of the Roaming Gnome was created by Avant Garde Studio, with the help of artists, Amy Medford, Leonid Siveriver, and Philip Marchington.
The Travelocity TV campaign, which officially broke on January 1, 2004, during the Rose Bowl, was inspired by a practical joke popular in Australia, Europe and the UK that involves mischief makers who steal ornamental garden gnomes from people’s lawns.
In the original ads, Bill, the owner of the Roaming Gnome (stolen from a home in Durham, England) receives photographs, and sometimes ransom notes, from his garden gnome who is experiencing such exploits as cliff diving in Mexico, bobbing in a hot tub, riding on a ski lift, or enjoying a stinky wedge of cheese in Quebec. To track the gnome’s movements, the company initially provided a website called whereismygnome.com.
“Wanted: My garden gnome. Have you seen him? Has red pointy hat. He was taken last week off front lawn. No substitutes please. Call Bill. 1-800-229-0053.”
The ad’s tagline “You’ll Never Roam Alone” was written by John Guynn. Other slogans include, “Book with Travelocity: Don’t Forget Your Hat,” “Go and Smell the Roses.”
Nowadays, the Roaming Gnome has escaped the hands of his kidnappers and enjoys a live of his own, as the globe-trotting representative for the Travelocity company.
Although Travelocity’s corporate office is in Southlake, Texas you would never know from the outside of the buildings which are sterile looking concrete boxes with no signs to indicate the Roaming Gnome even exists at the site. You would think, at least, there would be a sign or statue of the Roaming Gnome since it is the company’s most recognizable icon.
NOTE: The French-based Garden Gnome Liberation Front (Front de Libération des Nains de Jardins) wreaked havoc in France until 1997 when a northern French court handed its ringleader a suspended prison sentence and fined him for his part in the disappearance of around 150 gnomes.
An example of a gnome kidnapping prank appeared in the movie Amelie (2001). In the film, impish actress Audrey Tautou plays Amelie, a shy, single coffee shop waitress at the Two Windmills Café in Montmartre, Paris who decides to help lonely people fix their lives. To inspire her widowed father Raphael to travel, Amelie sends his garden gnome on a tour of the world.
And so with the help a stewardess friend, the gnome is taken around the globe and then snapshots of where it had been were sent to Amelie’s father. In the end, the photos encourage her reclusive father to set out on an adventure of his own.
The Roaming Gnome
3150 Sabre Drive
Southlake, TX 76092