Expedia Takes Sick Children on Thrilling Real-Time Adventures -- Without Leaving the Hospital

180 LA Installation Transports Kids With Cancer to Exciting Worlds

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Children with serious illnesses and confined to their hospital beds might think that swimming with tropical fish or running with wild horses is the stuff of dreams. But Expedia, along with its agency 180LA, has made such dreams come true for kids battling cancer at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

The "St. Jude Dream Adventures" campaign consisted of a temporary 360-degree installation at the hospital that "transported" the children to Cordoba and Talampaya Park in Argentina, Monkey Jungle in Florida and the Great Maya Reef in Mexico. In it, they experienced the locations' natural wonders -- from fossils to colorful sea-life to wily monkeys -- in real time. Expedia employees whose own lives had been affected by serious illneses were on location as personal tour guides to show the kids the sites.

In one "adventure," a girl in love with horses watches them speed across Argentine plains with Expedia employee Sara L., a brain tumor survivor. Chera, whose family members have been diagnosed with cancer, leads a boy on a monkey adventure and Expedia employee Reenie, who also has family affected by cancer, goes Scuba diving in Mexico to lead the under-water tour for Hannah, who has since passed away. Since it's all occurring in real-time, the patients were able to ask questions, "touch" and explore the locations with the help of their guides.

The campaign has been a "dream" idea at the agency and was more than a year in development, according to 180 L.A. Chief Creative Officer William Gelner In coming up with the idea, "We hit on this insight that travel actually does have healing power, and when we were talking to the kids at St. Jude's, one of the things we found out was that a lot of them had dreams of places and adventures they wanted to go on. But sadly, they wouldn't be able to because of their illnesses."

Expedia and 180 worked hand-in-hand with St. Jude's to cast the children for the film. After presenting the idea to the hospital, the team then turned it over to St. Jude's to find the patients who would be a good fit, said Expedia Senior Brand Marketing Manager Jessica Eichner. "One of the great things about St. Jude's is that they're very conscious of how the handle their patients. They're very protective in a good way and helped us to find who would enjoy it, who was feeling well enough and whose families would be on board."

The campaign team then asked each kid about their "dream adventure," and made a customized, bespoke trip for each one. The agency tapped All 360 Media for the surround video capture and then created the project-mapped installation, a six-sided experiential space, with a company called Pixel Rain. The "real-time" aspect of the experience proved especially tricky, and the production team went through several tests and trials to ensure that there was no lag time and projections were as clear as possible, according to Mr. Gelner.

The idea seems to lend itself perfectly to favorite tech of the moment, VR, which the agency considered. "That was our first thought," said Mr. Gelner. "But these kids are really sick and VR can be pretty intrusive. We didn't want to make them more sick by sticking headsets on them. We opted for something that felt much more organic and more pleasurable."

While the "Dream Adventures" installation brought joy to the kids in the film, the brand is committed to making it an experience for more children. "While it's a beautiful spot, it affects four kids," said Mr. Walia. "We are in active discussion with St. Jude about building a permanent installation so that more kids can experience adventures. St. Jude is very receptive to the idea, and while I don't have any details to share, we are in deep discussions. This is not just a passing fancy."

Read the full Behind the Work Story on Expedia's "St. Jude Dream Adventures" on Adage.com.

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Mar 21, 2016
180 LA
Chief Creative Officer:
William Gelner
Executive Creative Director:
Eduardo Marques
Executive Creative Director:
Rafael Rizuto
Creative Director:
Pierre Janneau
Creative Director:
Dan Kroeger
Will Gorman
Art Director:
Chelsea Cumings
Head of Production:
Natasha Wellesley
Executive Producer:
David Emery
Senior Producer:
Dominique Anzano
Digital Producer:
Mish Fabok
Production Company:
Ways & Means
Zachary Heinzerling
Cedric Troadec
Lucas Eskin
Editorial Company:
Cut & Run
Executive Producer:
Carr Schilling
Remy Foxx
The Mill
Executive Producer:
Thatcher Peterson
Adam Scott
Executive Producer:
Rich Rama
Flame Artist:
David Parker
James Howell
Human Worldwide
Jonathan Sandford
Additional Music:
Andy Park
Additional Music:
Asche & Spencer
Creative Director:
Josh DiMarcantonio
Executive Producer:
Erin Goodsell

See more credits

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