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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Emirates Airlines has Jumped the Shark

Full disclosure.

It pains me to do this critique. I've flown Emirates Airlines many times and love their business class services and economy class entertainment. But really, their print advertising has crossed over and jumped the shark.

Mary Wells, architect of the Braniff “End of the Plain Plane" ad campaign, is certainly sitting in her French villa chuckling over these ads. (Well, at least I would be...)

Ever since Braniff shocked the airline industry when Wells introduced the new International image for the airlines, the ad industry has been trying to match that impact.

For many of you reading who don't know the story, Braniff introduced a new multi-colored fleet with technicolor cabins and exteriors in 1965. The campaign extended all the way to uniforms with stewardesses (that's what they were called back then - hey, don't shoot the messenger!) performing their notorious “AirStrip" where they would actually take layers of their uniform off as the flight progressed. Wells was pretty awesome. A "mad woman" of sorts. A genius that created the "Plop-plop-fizz-fizz," "I Love New York," and "Flic My Bic" campaigns. She set the standard for advertising innovation. In her book, A Big Life In Advertising, Wells detailed how this campaign was literally rescued from the circular file when desperation struck for that big idea.

The AirStrip? Yes, that's real.
The trash bin leads to an interesting transition to the Emirates "Hello Tomorrow" campaign courtesy of StrawberryFrog and Scott Goodson, the agency's creative genius.

Full disclosure once again. Who the #*%$ am I to critique these ads? StrawberryFrog has like a kajillion dollars in ad revenues. I'm just your run-of-the-mill Media Guy with an armful of shiny trophies and some great bar stories to show from my career (well, maybe more).

When Goodson was asked how he came with the campaign he said, "A great set of words – like Hello Tomorrow – point to an interesting dichotomy, which leads to dynamic advertising and game-changing ideas. The campaign needed to go way beyond conventional airline advertising. It needed to rally thousands of employees in the worlds fastest growing companies, make a statement about the future that would be heard by global travelers."

Hmmmmmm...game-changing ideas...

Let's jump into some of the ads and see what's game-changing and what's not.

"Meet the flavours of the world" ad

REACTION: WTF? Did the copywriters have a diversity checklist?:

"Yeah, uh Bob, do we have hipster guy with a knit cap?"
"Yep, check!"
"A woman who looks equally part Latina and part black?"
"Yep, check!"
"An Asian woman?"
"Yep, check!"
"An Irish/Caucasian-looking redheaded woman?"
"Yep, check!"
"A German woman?"
"Yep, check!"
"A very African woman?"
"Yep, all set!"

C'mon...I thought the days of no-two-people-of-the-same-race-can-be-in-an-ad-together were gone! What about that great no-aisle, six across seating plan they have working here? I bet that even said "we can sound extra international and intelligent if we spell 'flavor' the English way and add the 'u.' Yeah that's a great idea.

"Dream big in Business Class" ad

REACTION: Bed head or electrocution? Seriously? And who wears green sweats with a yellow cardigan and a burgundy blouse in business class anymore? What a nightmare.

"Dance to the rhythm of the waves" ad

REACTION: I don't believe the two women in the ad are even dancing. I can only assume that they are channeling their inner OutKast and were caught throwing "their arms in the air and waving them like they just don't care." But honestly, I don't need to go clubbing in Dubai when the LA and Vegas clubs do the trick nicely. As a matter of fact, wouldn't anything in Dubai -- the indoor skiing, the Burj Al Arab, or even the Gold Souk -- be something you want to do over clubbing? All of this begs the question: were either of these women even in motion?

"Find your work-life groove" ad

REACTION: Look, I don't mean to keep pooping on their ads, but what in the living hell just happened to the first class cabin? Everything Emirates Airlines shows seems to be this exercise in avant-garde misrepresentation. On who's authority was this guy allowed to get hammered on premium bourbon and then whip out his saxophone to jam Charlie Parker style? So if this isn't even remotely going to happen then why is it in the ad? If you were suffering in economy, how long would it take you to steal a bottle of wine from the beverage cart and beat that instrument into a pile of brass?

"Remix business with pleasure" ad

REACTION: I certainly hope all of this remixing isn't happening during take-off or landing? And, did this intrepid DJ purchase an extra $5500 business class ticket just to do an emergency mix for a wedding in the U.A.E.? However you slice it, it's a assault on the poor schlub in economy (again)...like coach-bound Renee Zellweger told her son in Jerry Maguire, "First class, that’s what’s wrong. It used to be a better meal, now it’s a better life.” Yeah you had me at Hello Tomorrow.

"Tomorrow brings us all closer" ad

REACTION: Why is it that the caucasian is sheltering the Indian woman from the rain and not the other way around? And, the guy in the left in the foreground is covering his head with a newspaper. I mean who reads a newspaper anymore? Why is it that only two out of the seven people in this ad had an umbrella? Was it a flash storm? A gift from the heavens to alleviate draught? I don't know about you, but the last five hotels I stayed at had a complimentary umbrella to use during my stay. The only thing game changing about this ad is the pantheon level of absurdity it delivers.

"Travel at your own tempo" ad

REACTION: Do you really think the woman to the left of this poor man's Hugh Hefner in the smoking jacket is going to be all smiles asking him why he chose chicken cordon bleu over the filet mignon. No, she's going to asking the flight attendant to move her away Rico Suave.