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Jingle: Ozark “We’re big on that” (1973)

Listen: Ozark Air Lines: “We're Big On That”

They don’t make airlines like Ozark anymore. That’s not nostalgia. The category no longer exists. Ozark was a local service airline. And the locals had something to prove.

The local service carrier was a creature of the regulated air travel industry. It was meant to serve smaller communities left behind by the larger, trunk airlines. Every region of the country had its own local service airline: Mohawk in New York and Pennsylvania, North Central in the northern midwest, Southern in the southeast. Ozark’s territory covered the midwest, centering around St. Louis.

Before deregulation, prices were set and routes awarded by the government for local and major airlines alike. So airlines competed on service. In their advertising, local airlines often tried to prove that they were just as good as the majors. Or better. To do it, they used the same tools the giants did — including the jingle.1

Pioneer Airlines, the first of the local service airlines, was also probably one of the first to use a jingle in its advertising: “When it’s far by car / It’s near by Pioneer!”2 Mohawk used them too. And Ozark had several throughout its history.

“We’re big on that” is the jingle of an airline with a chip on its shoulder. The Ozark of the early 1970s was not big; it flew to an impressive number of cities but only within a relatively small geographic area. Although one tendril of its route map stretched to New York, it wasn’t even a direct flight from its St. Louis hub. So Ozark set out to prove it was just as big as the big boys in other ways: the size of its stewardess’ smiles, for example.

It’s a very catchy tune, as you’d expect from Steve Karmen.3 The lyrics are pretty flat, but it doesn’t matter. The music captures Ozark’s ambitions perfectly. The syncopated rhythm of the melody and the relentless “go go go go” of the background singers propels the jingle forward. You can especially hear this in the Moog-a-riffic instrumental cut:

Listen: Ozark Air Lines: “We're Big On That”

And for a time, Ozark really was a “going, growing airline.” After deregulation, the differences between local and major carriers became a matter of size more than anything else; Ozark’s route map came to resemble that of a typical hub-and-spoke carrier (albeit with only one hub.) It was profitable until the chaos of the mid-1980s, then in 1986 it was acquired by TWA, which shared its St. Louis hub.

Today, there are no airlines like Ozark left. There are regional airlines, but they tend to fly under contract from major carriers rather than under their own brands. Also, the consolidation of the major airlines in the past several years has been mirrored by consolidation of the regionals. Some communities are still provided subsidized routes under the federal Essential Air Service program. But the local service model proved to be unsustainable after deregulation.

Airline: Ozark Air Lines
Title: “We’re big on that”
Agency: D’Arcy-MacManus & Masius, St. Louis
Written By: Steve Karmen
Year: 1973

People care on Ozark Air Lines.
(We’re big on that!)
The smiles are there on Ozark Air Lines.
(We’re big on that!)

Business trips on Ozark Air Lines.
(We’re big on that!)
Or pleasure trips on Ozark Air Lines.
(We’re big on that!) 

From making your reservation
to smiles at your destination,
we’re making each flight
as right as it can be.
(We’re big on that!) 

Ozark is the going airline.
(We’re big on that!)
It’s the going, growing airline.
(We’re big on that!)
Ozark is the going airline.
(We’re big on that!)
It’s the going, growing airline…

  1. Ozark also used celebrity endorsers. Today, it may be most famous for its advertising campaign featuring George Carlin. []
  2. Stan Solomon, Airlines for the rest of us (Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2008): 31. []
  3. Karmen was well-known at D’Arcy, Ozark’s agency. Just a few years before, he’d written “When you say Budweiser, you’ve said it all” for the agency and it was a huge hit. []