Roaming Gnome - Kidnapped lawn gnome that was the
focus of an $80 million ad campaign for
Travelocity, a popular travel website.
The two-foot tall "Roaming Gnome" first appeared
in late 2003 in a series of ads that were
created by McKinney & Silver ad agency of
Raleigh, North Carolina.
The ad spots (which
aired on DIRECTV, cable TV, national and local
radio, and print ads) were inspired by a
practical joke popular in Europe and the UK that
involves mischief makers who steal ornamental
garden gnomes from people's lawns.
Soon after the theft, the owner of the statue begins to
receive snapshots of their gnome that depict all
the places their kidnapper has taken the statue.
Sometimes a ransom note accompanies the
Since the central theme of the prank
is showing a gnome "traveling" to various
places, the Travelocity people thought the idea
of a roaming gnome mascot was a perfect match
for their online travel business.
To track the
gnome's movements, the company initially
provided a website (now defunct) called www.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.
In the ads, the Roaming Gnome (stolen from a
home in Durham, England) finds the time to send
letters to his owner Bill that chronicle such
exploits as cliff diving in Mexico, bobbing in a
hot tub, riding on a ski lift, and enjoying a
stinky wedge of cheese in Quebec.
The ad's tagline was "Book with Travelocity:
Don't Forget Your Hat." The red-capped gnome
used in the ads spoke with a voice-over British
The Roaming Gnome "stinky cheese" ad spot
TRIVIA 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
Variations of the prank have appeared in the
such foreign movies The Full
Monty and Amelie.
In the film
Amelie (2001), impish actress Audrey Tautou plays Amelie, a
shy, single coffee shop waitress living in Paris
who decides to help lonely people fix their
To inspire her widowed father Raphael to
travel, Amelie sends his garden gnome on a tour
of the world.
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