Fly the Branded Skies

Jingle: “You’re Really Flying When You Fly BOAC” (1957)


Listen: BOAC: “You're Really Flying When You Fly BOAC”

It’s morning in 1957, at a travel agency on Main Street in some unknown town somewhere in America. The mailman has just stopped by with the day’s mail: the usual assortment of bills and brochures, plus one unusual package from BOAC. “Be sure to play this record soon,” reads the cover. “It contains a message of great importance to you!”

It’s a slow day at the office, so the travel agent sets the 12-inch record down on the turntable and drops the needle. The speakers play a jaunty tune: “You’re really flying when you fly B-O-A-C…”

This is one of the oldest jingles in my collection and, fittingly, it is also very much of its time. This one record says a lot about how air travel worked in the 1950s, how it was advertised, and what those advertisements sounded like.

Because this was no ordinary record. It was a “make your own radio commercial” construction kit.

There are four tracks on the record. This is the first:

Listen: BOAC: “You're Really Flying When You Fly BOAC” (with narration)

But this first track is only an example. The other three have no narration;1 just an instrumental bed between the two sung portions. In jingle terminology, this is called a “donut.” It’s a part of the jingle when the singers drop out to leave room for a voiceover.

Instruction Sheet for BOAC Radio CommercialThe record was accompanied by a script. Travel agents would make small changes to the script (adding the name of their local airport, using local prices, and tacking the agency’s name on to the end) and then deliver it and the record to their local radio station. The station would either record the localized spot or read it live on the air.

You can try this out for yourself! Click on the image of the script to the right to expand it, then play the music and read one of the scripts in your best 1950s announcer voice.

There were many advantages to this arrangement. Keep in mind that in the 1950s the vast majority of tickets on commercial airline flights were sold through travel agents. BOAC had ticket offices of their own in some of the largest U.S. cities, but they depended on travel agents for most of their business. On the other hand, travel agents on their own didn’t have the resources to create musical radio commercials. With this record, the production is taken care of. All the travel agent has to do is pay for the media — and there may have been some sort of co-op arrangement in which BOAC chipped in for that, too.

It’s also interesting to note that all five of the scripts are aimed squarely at affluent leisure travellers. In the 1950s, they represented the most important and lucrative market; today, of course, it’s business travellers airlines mostly target.

This jingle is also a product of a time when pretty much all jingles sounded exactly the same: jazzy, cheerful, relentlessly upbeat. As Timothy Taylor points out in The Sounds of Capitalism,2 today, music in advertising is used to set a certain mood. But that attitude toward music didn’t really develop until the 1960s. In the Fifties, jingles were used more for their memorability than their ability to convey emotion.

Like the relationship between airlines and travel agents, and the equipment used for transatlantic flights, that was about to change.

Airline: British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC)
Title: “You’re Really Flying When You Fly BOAC”
Agency: Victor A. Bennett Co., New York3
Written by: Unknown
Year: 19574
Lyrics:

You’re really flying when you fly B-O-A-C!
World leader in air travel.
Really flying when you fly B-O-A-C!
No matter when or where you travel.

Enjoy British service to the east or the west
Or fly to the south for a rest.
See your travel agent as soon as you can.
You’re really flying when you fly B-O-A-C!

(Donut.)

See your travel agent as soon as you can.
Any flight can be yours on the ten/twenty plan!
You’re really flying when you fly B-O-A-C.
World leader in air travel.
B-O-A-C!

  1. The other three tracks are identical to each other. I’m not sure why the same music is repeated three times on the record, but it may be for redundancy in case one of the tracks gets scratched. []
  2. Timothy Taylor, The Sounds of Capitalism: Advertising, Music, and the Conquest of Culture, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012. []
  3. The agency isn’t identified on the record or the letter, but this seems a reasonable conjecture. Victor A. Bennett took over the BOAC account from Foote, Cone in April of 1956. []
  4. There’s no date on the record or the accompanying letter. However, one of the scripts mentions transatlantic flights on the DC-7C. The first DC-7C was delivered in October of 1956; by the end of 1958, BOAC was flying the Comet 4 across the Atlantic, and surely would have wanted to promote its jet service. So 1957 seems a reasonable guess. []

Reactions

  • DB

    I grew up in Canada. In the early 1970s I remember a radio advertising jingle that went something like “BOAC, is a Britain in the Sky.” Does anyone have any further information on it?

  • http://brandedskies.com/ Fly the Branded Skies

    Seems like that campaign only ran in Canada, which means it might be hard to track down. I did find some mentions of a BOAC jingle written by Bob Hahn, a Canadian jingle writer: ( http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/bob-hahn-emc ). Might have been him, but I don’t know if it’s the same jingle. It seems the History of Advertising Trust has a copy of the commercial ( http://www.hatads.org.uk/catalogue/record/dc575ca6-3a24-47fd-b66a-7925f29db638/ ) so next time you’re in Norwich you can check it out!