‘MiniAbe’ gets around in new state Tourism/JWT spot

MiniAbe scene at the Bean

Last fall, an Office of Illinois Tourism spot introduced “MiniAbe,” an animated plastic Abe Lincoln action figure that serves as tour guide to the state’s many attractions, in a new campaign from JWT Chicago.

MiniAbe did such a good job in the Spontaneous Fall spot,  tied to the 2012 Academy Awards –- in which Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” had multiple nominations — that tourism inquiries rose 78% over the previous year.

Now a new integrated spring campaign is underway. It rolled out Tuesday in 16 U.S. markets, with the U.K., Germany, Canada and national cable scheduled for later this spring and summer.

Chicago-based Odd Machine produced both the new Be More Whoa-ed spot and the earlier one.

In the current spot, largely created by JWT ECD Dan Bruce, MiniAbe reacts with a “whoa!” in various tonal degrees of awe and admiration while visiting some of the state’s biggest (literally) and most diverse attractions.

“‘Be More Whoa-ed’ is a call to action to visit Illinois and be surprised and inspired, something that happens all the time,” adds Gary Korrub, JWT CD/AD.  

MiniAbe is animated by Greg Hinchman and Lolly Extract A month in production, director/DP Seth Hendrickson shot the 11-inch MiniAbe figure in stop motion against a studio green screen, after shooting live action on eight locations. They ranged from the Garden of the Gods in Downstate Shawnee Forest, to the Bean in Grant Park. 

The Lincoln historical figure was built by a JWT source the agency had been using for random social media postings, Pinkston says. Four figures are now used to give the character more range: the original, the hero, the terminator and a fourth remains in a box ready for future actions.

“The first figure was used as an experiment in Tourism’s Oscar spot.  Considering we had a 10-day time frame for production, I believe we got a pretty good feel for the little guy,” Pinkston adds.

“Be more Whoa-ed” is JWT’s first campaign for Illinois Tourism since it was retained as agency of record after a review last December.  Billings are estimated at $20 million a year.  JWT originally won the account in 2004.

Odd Machine animators were Lolly Extract, Amber marsh and Greg Hinchman and Steve Morrison edited. Sound design by CRC’s Eric Cauwels.

Agency credits: ECD, Dan Bruce; CD/CW, Gary Korrub; CD/AD, Terra Hambly; producer, Carolyn James.

Illinois Tourism team: Jen Hoelzle, deputy director; Jan Kemmerling, assistant deputy director Lisa Link, marketing manager.