In recent years the global flying experience has been somewhat turbulent for passengers with impeccable service at one end and lost baggage issues at the other. One thing which has remained at cruising altitude or in fact reached the veritable stratosphere is the commercials released by major airlines.
It's hard to decipher who started the ad race, but I think Branson's Virgin with their use of air hostesses resembling super models might have been be the forerunner. In recent years we have seen astounding ads from Qatar Airways, sports celebrities selfie shoot-outs from Turkish Airlines and the never imagined before commercials from Air New Zealand which had the cabin crew with body painted uniforms and has now latched on to the LOTR/Hobbit franchise with a vengeance. The Kiwi carrier created another first of its own with the innovative safety videos featuring New Zealand rugby stars and the Hobbit cast.
Now we have the new Emirates ad starring Jennifer Aniston. There is no grandstanding and the message is clear. Flying an airline other than Emirates is a nightmare. No competitor is named but this new Emirates offering is using a female celeb, reminding one of the Etihad campaign featuring Nicole Kidman. Unlike that commercial, this one has no glitz and glamour or romanticism.
In a recent poll the Messi versus Kobe video was voted the YouTube ad of the decade. Will this Emirates ad be half as popular? It is humorous and stars Jennifer Aniston, so two reasons why it has gone viral quickly. We can be sure people will be watching the video out of curiosity- the partnership was announced earlier and it is Jen Aniston. So it's safe to say that the video will be widely watched.
Virality is great and seems to be the goal of every marketer in this digitized age. However, how does this Emirates ad stack up in terms of effectiveness? The message is too simple- don't fly other airlines, they are a nightmare – the kind of communication which leaves a lot of room for competitors to hit back. So if and when they do, the Emirates marketing team may well have sleepless nights although the rest of the world will be enjoying the airline ad fight.
The Messi versus Kobe selfie shootout was a good ad, although it did not make the best use of a celebrity. Instead that accolades goes to another Turkish Airlines commercial, the one with Kevin Costner. The airlines chose a very powerful concept for its relaunch in 2009.
The unwritten rule for a campaign that uses celebrities is to make sure the brand - or even better your audience becomes the star, not the celebrity. The Turkish Airlines commercial featuring Kevin Costner is in my view, right on the money. The communication is exactly what a customer wants to hear... our airline does everything to make you feel like a star. Add to that the humour angle and it's an amazingly effective commercial.
So as the airline (m)ad race is heats up, with world class airlines hiring award winning agencies to create commercials and bigger, ‘badder’ celebrities (think Angelina Jolie) signed up, I for one, will be watching with some expectation but scepticism as well. In my opinion the most effective airline commercial ever was created in 2009.
The wealthy Middle Eastern airlines can fight it out for control of the skies and of their customers’ minds, spending more and more, sadly, all in vain. My vote lies with the one commercial that made the passenger feel like a star.
That is until Shakira is signed up for a commercial.
Tyrone Tellis is a marketing professional working in Pakistan. firstname.lastname@example.org