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Two years after American Airlines launched ads focused on its passenger-friendly improvements — like new airplanes, more Wi-Fi and more business class flatbeds — the carrier is switching course with a new, more sophisticated campaign designed to “humanize” its message.
The now-retired ‘Going for Great’ Campaign, “felt like it was a lot about us,” American vice president for marketing Fern Fernandez said, while new ads highlight “the shared mindset between our customers and our employees.”
Instead of bragging about product or routes, American mostly will emphasize its passengers, calling them the “world’s greatest flyers.” The campaign is the first major one created by American’s new agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, which last year replaced TM Advertising, a Texas-based affiliate of McCann Erickson, as American’s lead agency. TM had handled American’s work since 1981.
A series of advertisements describe the quirks of customers, noting that they walk faster in airports than elsewhere, love babies (except when on planes), and pack “like they’re solving a jigsaw puzzle.” The video ads also emphasize shared elements of travel, suggesting American’s customers always ask permission from their seat-mates before raising and lowering their window shades.
The ads are designed to attract more customers to American. But Fernandez said the airline also wants to use them to raise the level of decorum on aircraft.
“What we want to do is create a great an environment where people are nice to each other,” Fernandez said.
Unlike United Airlines, which uses Matt Damon, and Delta Air Lines, which uses Donald Sutherland, American is not relying on celebrity voice-over. It has done so in the past. Mad Men star Jon Hamm narrated some of American’s commercials in 2013 and 2014, but this time “it felt like it was a little more real,” to use an unrecognizable voice, Fernandez said.
For print ads, American is expounding on its theme of humanity in travel.
“You know a smile goes a long way on a short flight,” one print ad reads. “You know to ask before reclining your seat. But more importantly, you know sitting next to you would make for a more pleasant flight. In fact, you’d probably help you lift your luggage into the overhead.”
American will still run some ads in key markets about its products and routes, but decided it no longer needed that information in all of its messaging. This new campaign is about a “repositioning” of American’s brand, while the other was “more tactical,” Fernandez said. American wants its brand to be “relatable” to travelers, he added.
American is also using similar themes in its internal communications. The airline created a 1 minute 15 second video highlighting the virtues of its employees.
“You’re the difference between a good airlines and a great one,” the video says. “You don’t see suitcases, you see peoples’ lives.”