"Forget all those variations on tiresome aviation ad clichés like offers of extra leg room or better WiFi,” said the CMO of American Airlines in my mind, in a statement that I am making up.
I have to fictionalize it, because frankly, I can’t believe how otherwise empty, arrogant, and delusional this new AA ad campaign is.
“What’s the sense in using good ad money to try to make this so-called traveler feel better?” the marketing person in my alt/faux world says. “Flying is a nightmare, and it’s only getting worse. We all know that.
“So we flipped the concept in a major way,” this person who does not exist explains.
“The first of our major learnings was this: A brand like American Airlines will never improve, and consumers shouldn’t bother expecting us to. Got it? It’s not like we can make American Airlines great again.”
This faux CMO continues: “So, we’re just being honest. Instead of working on ourselves, we decided to build a better passenger: someone neater, more organized, faster-walking, without baggage (except for pricey noise-canceling earphones.)
"Yup, someone who can follow orders and accept unlimited abuse. And will still try to bring the mood up on the plane! Yes, that’s our ‘Greatest flyer!’”
Seriously, that’s about the only way I can make sense of this ridiculous dumping of responsibility on the poor, exhausted, ravenous unfortunates who actually paid good money to get squished into a seat on a delayed AA flight. (Unless it’s a satire on hollow, pompous advertising. )
Even spelling the word flier with a “y” comes off as pretentious. Like an art director said, “I don’t care how American newspapers spell it! It looks better, like an anchor, and anyway, this has nothing to do with real life or real people!”
The fact that the campaign comes from Crispin, Porter + Bogusky is another head-spinner.
But let’s give it a chance, and take a look: First of all, as with the aforementioned letter “y,” the whole thing is fey, and considerably over-art directed (although the visuals suggest an elevated version of the kind of art you get on Getty Images).
And at the same time, it’s weirdly underpopulated. We see nary a human being, except for the enormous, disembodied head of a baby, from the adorable chubby cheek, nostrils and eyelashes on up, lost in space. No planes, no airports, no people, no food.
The main 60-second video opens on some vast expanse of desert, with what looks like a microscopic clan. (Danger, American Family Robinson!) They are just tiny dots in the Lawrence of Arabia-scape.
You get the idea that whomever designed this work really doesn’t like depicting anything as messy and demanding as, ugh, hold your nose, wait for it: people!
There’s a definite disconnect in this vast emptiness being used as the visual behind the line of type suggesting that great flyers “walk faster in airports.” Huh?
These miniature ‘Murricans shown here look stranded and desperate, like they should be airlifted out of there ASAP before they start sacrificing each other for food.
No matter: It sure is relatable. Another line is that great flyers “ask before opening or closing the window shade.” Wait, what? Is that a major problem?
There’s also a cohesive graphic device: throughout all of the sparse frames, we see the shadow of the new abstracted eagle and wings AA logo, passing slowly overhead. It seems ominous, and when it’s not, it reads more as a drone than a passenger plane (Relief from all of this emptiness? An Amazon order, maybe?).
There is one line I actually like: “They pack like they’re solving a crossword puzzle.” Underneath it, we see a horizontal visual of a pair of polished, narrow, men’s business shoes, and all-black accessories super-neatly laid out. (Great flyers have narrow feet?)
Wait! What’s wrong with this picture?
It seems to suggest that the 50% of humanity known as “women” can’t even hope to be great flyers.
Never mind. On the equally empty Web site devoted to the campaign, it says, “Everything you need is right in front of you.”
This reminded me of the last flight I ever took on this airline, about eight years ago. I am not making up that I was given a seat in a row that was jerrybuilt in front of the boarding door, so I and my seatmates had to stand in the bathroom while our fellow fliers came through. Otherwise they would have rolled and tripped over our legs and feet.
The location was great for deboarding, however. And I walked out of there in my neatly polished mens’ shoes, and my gleaming men’s watch, with my shade up and my mood still elevated at the thought of never returning to American Airlines again.
I mean, like, really, who could stand those people and their baggage?