Airline mergers are ugly. With a capital Ugh. Seniority lists need to be mashed together. Incompatible fleets need to be made compatible. Executive vice presidencies need to be redistributed. The fears of frequent fliers need to be assuaged.
And through it all, the advertising needs to stay bright and cheerful. Nothing to see here, folks. Look at how super happy all those employees are to be working together!
No, you can’t blame advertising for putting a happy face on an ugly merger. But this is just painful.
Today Pan Am is remembered as a luxury airline, largely by people who never flew it. But it was also an inclusive airline. Most of its advertising campaigns weren’t aimed at the international jetset—they were aimed at getting ordinary Americans to fly overseas, often for the first time.
This campaign is notorious in the annals of advertising—right up there with the Pacific Air Lines campaign from Stan Freberg that allegedly drove the airline into bankruptcy. Neither campaign was quite as disastrous as the lore now suggests. In fact, this one may have been a big success.
Gawrsh, running an airline sure hurts your noggin. So many things to remember. Smile at the passengers, clean the lavatory, put down the landing gear… who could blame ya for goofin’ up sometimes? Aw-hyuck!
This jingle, cute but unremembered, is a testament to a maturing industry.
It is a symbol, in fact, of a whole genre of airline advertising that barely exists anymore. This genre didn’t say much about fares, or onboard service, or frequent flier programs. Instead, it sold the joy of travel to a public that wasn’t yet used to travelling.
GSD&M has been Southwest Airlines’ advertising agency for more than thirty years. The exclusivity of that relationship is currently in question, with at least eight agencies now vying for a major assignment from the carrier. As Southwest reviews its account, it seems like a good time to review some of the earliest work.
This jingle comes from GSD&M’s first major campaign for Southwest in 1982.
It was a different industry in 1975. The route maps of most U.S. carriers were limited to North America, with a few tendrils reaching out to Hawaii or the Caribbean. Only three airlines flew across the Atlantic, and one of them, National, only flew one route from Miami to London. Pan Am dominated the transatlantic market but it was prohibited from flying domestically within the United States.
Only Trans World Airlines combined European flying with a robust domestic network. Only TWA flew from New York to Frankfurt as well as Kansas City to Wichita.
What’s clever about this campaign is how TWA took advantage of its European flights — to sell tickets to people who weren’t flying to Europe.
If you sell a country, you have two choices: bikinis or cuckoo clocks.
Cuckoo clocks are expected. Everyone knows Switzerland has cuckoo clocks. Egypt has pyramids. Canada has trees and mountains. Brazil has Carnaval. Bikinis turn national stereotypes on their ears. Sometimes the Swiss wear bikinis. Egypt has modern cities. Canada has beaches. Brazil has golf.
This is the story of how one airline went from cuckoo clocks to bikinis and back again.