Fly the Branded Skies



It’s been pretty quiet on Fly the Branded Skies for the past few months. Here’s why.

When I started this site three years ago, it was mostly because of my lifelong fascination with the airline business. But there was another motive too: I wanted to work on an airline’s advertising account, and writing about airline branding seemed like one way to get there.

Well, mission accomplished! Since the middle of February, I’ve been a copywriter on American Airlines at McCann Erickson in New York. Suddenly I’m not just commenting on the industry from afar as a curious observer; I’m actually in the advertising trenches, and at a very exciting time.

Which changes things a little.

So here’s the standard disclosure: the opinions on this site are mine alone and do not reflect those of American Airlines or McCann. Sometimes I may post links to news about American, not to promote them but because they’re a major player and what they do has an impact on the industry. However I will only link to official sources.

I look forward to posting more frequently in the future! Only now the posts will be more, you know… informed.


American Airlines launched its long-anticipated new identity today, replacing the Massimo Vignelli-designed livery it used unchanged for more than four decades. You can find more information and photographs at their launch Web site, or watch this behind-the-scenes video. In the interests of full disclosure, I work at American’s advertising agency, although I do not work on their account. Here’s the launch television spot developed by McCann New York:


Jingle: United “Mother Country” (1973)

The friendly skies of your land. United Air Lines

Listen: United Air Lines: “Mother Country”

A confession: I actually like a lot of the jingles I write about. Not even in an ironic, hipster sort of way either. Some of them are admittedly guilty pleasures (like TWA’s 80s power ballad Leading the Way — still desperately trying to find that one on vinyl, by the way) but others I think are legitimately great songs. And of those, “Mother Country” is my favourite.

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Jingle: Southwest Airlines “Just Say When” (1985)

Fly Southwest - Just Say When

Listen: Southwest Airlines: “Just Say When”

One of the most appealing attributes of Southwest’s brand is its self-awareness. At a time when other airlines were depicting air travel as a luxurious experience, Southwest made promises it could deliver. It just so happened that what Southwest could deliver was what a lot of passengers really wanted anyway: frequent, convenient flights. This post is about the time when Southwest grew up.

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Jingle: Ansett “Getting So Much Better” (1991)

Ansett Australia. Getting So Much Better.

Listen: Ansett Australia: “Getting So Much Better”

The tumult of deregulation didn’t spare Australia, but it did arrive somewhat later. It was not until October 31, 1990, that Australia’s skies were deregulated. By then Australian airlines had seen enough of the experiences of other countries around the world to be nervous. The sleepy domestic duopoly that was Australian aviation went to war. Advertising was one of the battlefields.

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Jingle: United “Ballad of the Boss” (1976)

You're the boss.

Listen: United Air Lines: “Ballad of the Boss”

There’s a reason why Leo Burnett was United’s advertising agency for more than thirty years. It has to do with Burnett’s trademark style: Warm. Folksy. Midwestern. Sometimes a bit schmaltzy. But always human. For a long time, that style fit United’s brand perfectly. The result was some of the most memorable airline advertising of the last century.

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Jingle: “Fly Cessna” (1980)

Fly Cessna: The world's number 1 business airline.

Listen: Cessna: “Fly Cessna”

This jingle breaks all the rules. For one, it’s not really a jingle; it was almost certainly never used in broadcast advertising. And for another, it’s not actually for an airline, no matter what Cessna says. But it’s still an interesting example of a strange, largely extinct genre: the industrial musical.

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Jingle: “Southern is going your way” (1973)

Southern is going your way

Listen: Southern Airways: “Southern Is Going Your Way” (contemporary)

“Going your way” may just be the most overused airline slogan out there — Mohawk used it, Braniff used it, Air Botswana uses it today, and Northwest Orient turned it on its head (“The world is going our way.”) It’s a pretty inoffensive little tagline, and it’s fitting that Southern turned it into a pretty inoffensive little jingle.

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Jingle: Braniff “El Clan Braniff” (1971)

El Clan Braniff

Listen: Braniff International Airways: “El Clan Braniff”

A few seconds after my Spanish-speaking art director started listening to this, I could hear him giggling on the other side of our office. I’d asked him if he could translate this jingle for me. By the time he got to the end of the song, he was full-out laughing. And when he sent me the translation, I knew why.

This jingle is just goofy.

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From now on, new planes for Air New Zealand will also feature a new livery. The new look retains the koru logo but replaces the blues and greens of its existing colours with black, inspired by New Zealand’s national rugby team, the All Blacks. The typography was also updated by Kris Sowersby. (via Brand New)


New livery for Air New Zealand


Fly the Branded Skies celebrates the past of airline branding and contemplates the future, from the perspective of Cameron Fleming, an advertising copywriter in New York. See how it all started »

Follow @brandedskies for updates. The opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect those of my agency or its clients.

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