Last year, airlines had a spectacular showing at the Cannes Lions, with a Grand Prix, six Golds, eight Silvers, and eight Bronzes. Inevitably, this year’s performance (eight Silver, 15 Bronze) was not quite so lofty. But there were some strong contenders, along with the usual mix of shocking omissions and perplexing victors that really make you wonder what the hell the judges were thinking.
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…”
For many years, from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, “Fly the Flag” was British Airways’ exhortation to travellers to do the patriotic thing: fly the state-owned carrier, the one with the Union Jack on the tail of all its aircraft.
Yet the jingle was commissioned by an American agency in London. Written by an American songwriter. Sung by what, to my ears, sound like American studio singers.
In short, British Airways may be British. But its jingle was 100% American.
“Fly the Friendly Skies” is without question the best-known airline tagline of all time, and it oughta be. United used it for more than 30 years.
That in itself is rare. Even rarer is the fact that for all those years, United employed the same advertising agency: Leo Burnett, Chicago.
There was a time when TWA was actually a pretty cool airline. It inhabited a pretty cool airport terminal. Thanks to its association with Howard Hughes, and his association with Hollywood, it flew pretty cool passengers.
And for a brief moment, in 1967, it had a pretty cool — and ultimately notorious — jingle.