Catch Up

Air NZ – have you you lost your mind ….

or have we lost our sense of humor? Actually I think we are laughing AT the Air NZ new safety video rather than WITH it. To be honest I am not even laughing, I’m more sort of rolling my eyes up and thinking “….Sports Illustrated swimsuit models….really?”

When I viewed the video I wasn’t “incensed” like Hilary Barry, but more bewildered about how our national carrier could get it so wrong. I wasn’t offended by those who assumed that people like me were allowing their killjoy ‘personal feminist politics’ complicate a fairly straightforward matter. I was simply wondering how anyone could find this new safety video clever? The Air NZ brand or let alone brand NZ has no connection with the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 50th birthday. Furthermore, while people do indeed wear swimsuits on a beach holiday, we all know showing ‘sexy girls’ is a lame, lazy and somewhat dated way to increase Google searches. (And anyway, is an increase in Google searches really the objective? I thought primarily this was a safety video to be viewed when one was on the plane).

In case it was just me, I canvassed the opinions of a variety of women across the generations as well as read some online commentary (although Air NZ seem to have blocked the allowance for comments on their youtube channel, always a bit of a give away..and pretty bad use of what is supposed to be ‘social’ media).

This helped me formulate my view as someone actively engaged with brands and very interested in the subject of gender, the issue of diversity and a willing participant in conversations about leadership, the “New New Zealand” and “NZ Inc”.

So I am sending a note to the CEO of Air NZ – here it is

Girls just wanna have fun I guess

Girls just wanna have fun I guess

Dear Mr Luxon

How our national carrier makes me proud to be a New Zealander. That it can more than hold its own amongst global players and deliver such a unique experience in the air and in the Koru Lounge, ensures that it is my preferred airline whenever I travel. I’ve loved how you have taken the regular safety video format and found a way to deliver those critical safety messages in a creative, contemporary, relaxed and inclusive way – ..So ‘on brand’, so ‘ brand NZ’.

But we all make mistakes so how about you get your staff to stop defending Air NZ’s latest effort. We know you know that the video has polarized people – a marketing euphemism for alienating a lot of educated people whose opinion matter. “Polarising” brand communications may work if you are a niche player needing attention and able to take a brand risk and maybe you are these things in the global airline industry, but in the context of NZ and in particular in relevance to this channel of communication, a safety video, you’ve missed the point.

God I hope you are not thinking “I wonder if she is a feminist”. Of course I am …is the sky blue? But feminism isn’t some sort of sisterhood club to which a few aggrieved angry types belong. It represents a shared set of values amongst both genders that ensures our society is progressive not regressive. And that’s the point – Air NZ’s views of what is humorous and relevant is really dated. And the defensive stance over this video is incredibly myopic.

While I know a load of people including some women in their 20’s when questioned on the video say “yeah, kind of lame, but whatever” – don’t discount this disinterest as acceptance and engagement. It’s better to consider this as another indicator of irrelevance.

Which is my next point, aside from the irrelevance of Sports Illustrated 50th Birthday (hey I am 50 too, snap!), the lack of connection to Pacifica as part of our national identity astounds me. With Pacific Peoples being one of the fastest growing sectors of the population in our most critical domestic market, I would have thought a more seamless connection to Air NZ and the Pacific may have been more relevant than Christie Brinkley looking lasciviously at her pool boy in Los Angeles. Oh but hang on you guys are apparently after global publicity that “money can’t buy”. Again, I thought it was a safety video.

I implore you to stop buying into the rhetoric of ‘any publicity is good publicity’. That adage was only relevant when scantily-clad women were draped over cars in advertisements which was around the time consumers did not make powerful choices, when we did not have social media that allowed everyone to have a voice. Another spokesperson of yours has issued the statement that it is “entirely appropriate they’re wearing beachwear”. How I laughed… last. (Presumably everyone else in your damage control room was too busy to comment.) I can’t imagine the thinking of the board and your management team is really that thin. At least I hope not.

I wonder if you are considering ALL stakeholders in this?

I thought the government, representing the people of NZ, your key shareholder, would like the national airline to be the flag carrier for NZ Inc
I would have thought the staff, aside from the two Palagi-friendly types who made the cut, would have preferred to be a more integral part of the communication as they had been in the past.
Your travellers – I would have thought that with reportedly over 85% of all purchases globally being influenced by women, you may have wanted to tread a little more carefully. As one female Gold Elite Frequent Flyer collegue remarked “When videos like this get through their internal system it does raise a deeper question for me about the environment at Air NZ for women. I am a Gold Elite Air NZ member and I was thinking why antagonise valuable customers ?” . I am happy to pass on her details.
The travel industry – I would have thought that this female-dominated industry may be questioning your judgement. Actually I am on the advisory board of a travel agency. We were just talking at a recent meeting about how there has been a distinct improvement in your efforts in airline/agency communication. We assumed this was all to do with the realisation that Air NZ was not partnering with the industry as well as it could have, and that Air NZ had been, in your words, a “bit protectionist and defensive” at times …..

So before Air NZ gets defensive and cites increased Google searches as proof it made the right call, please think a little more expansively. This is not a fringe issue by a minority group of “feminists”. It is about full engagement. You did say in the NZ Herald on December 14 in an interview entitled “Business Leader of the Year” that you would“sooner have people engage than not”. And if there was any one of your marketing communications pieces where you’d want full engagement notwithstanding a sense of inclusiveness it is your safety video.

Other than that, you are doing a great job. We all love Air New Zealand.

Yours sincerely

Sandy Burgham

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15 Responses to “Air NZ – have you you lost your mind ….”

  1. Jane Shearer
    February 17, 2014 at 6:38 am #

    this is so embarrassing this campaign, such rubbish.

    • sandy
      February 17, 2014 at 7:35 am #

      that’s interesting since you live in California where Air NZ are hoping this has impact. I agree. I am kind of embarrassed about it.

  2. Anna Murray
    February 17, 2014 at 7:30 am #

    Well done Sandy, too many people talking over the tea cups rather than taking a stance.

    • sandy
      February 17, 2014 at 7:36 am #

      Well clearly I have a stance on it. While I respect the opinions of those on the other side of the fence, when people are hot under the collar I always ask “what are you afraid of?”. I know what I am afraid of and that is regressing back to a time where advertising actively promoted a one dimensional view of women. It’s quite unnecessary to do this.

  3. Anna
    February 17, 2014 at 7:48 am #

    I’m am totally behind you Sandy 100%. I don’t understand the relevance and how anyone could take these important instructions seriously. It’s super embarrassing and I’m so pleased I don’t have to face hundreds of people whilst this is playing on their tv screens!

    • sandy
      February 17, 2014 at 9:30 am #

      well said. I would be interested how your old cabin crew colleagues are feeling about it

  4. February 17, 2014 at 8:56 am #

    Crikey Air NZ. I hope you’re aeroplane technology division isn’t as dated as your marketing division. It’s 2014 not 1974.

    • sandy
      February 17, 2014 at 9:30 am #

      Yes it’s such a missed opportunity to be clever.

  5. Anna mac
    February 17, 2014 at 8:57 am #

    My concern is that, heaven forbid, there was an accident with tragic outcome and they would look back and think “THAT was the SAFETY video??”
    Great to be edgy but that one is out of the ballpark.
    Not to mention seriously cheesy and cringe-worthy.

    • sandy
      February 17, 2014 at 9:30 am #

      yep, they can afford controversy on advertising but not safety videos

  6. February 17, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    Well said Sandy. There are a couple of other, dryer, matters to consider as well.

    As a safety message, its principal task, does the communication pass muster? Sometimes interestingness is increased with intriguing elements–and sometimes they are a distraction. The implied message seems to be that Air NZ are unconcerned with safety. Have aircraft become so technically proficient that there is no real safety risk? If they must screen the message as part of the FAA requirement – why not have some fun with it? (After all everybody has seen it a million times.) When basic routines are ignored in commercial aviation disasters like the Tenerife disaster occur (two 747s collide on the runway killing nearly 600 – Pan Am and KLM not dodgy airlines – because safety checks were expediently ignored. It’s detailed in a book call The Checklist Manifesto).I think the trend towards creating amusing safety videos was amusing, but now it has just become a cynical exercise in creative inflation. It will run its course.

    Another thought comes to mind. Do Air New Zealand view all of its passengers as the same person? – a projection of their templated ‘ideal’? Is that person a post-modern ‘hip’ traveller who would think nothing of whipping out a copy of Playboy magazine while traveling next to an elderly woman from Malta aboard one of their aircraft? Does every passenger delight in the videos? It is an obligation to watch–’even if you have seen it before’. That aspect makes me feel slightly awkward.

    As you say – good on AirNZ for their many innovations – but this isn’t there finest moments. I suspect the trend of emulating Southwest airlines experience has had its day – like supermarkets copying Stu Leonard’s market – it will pass.

    You might find this article interesting too.

    • sandy
      February 17, 2014 at 9:30 am #

      completely agree. You make an excellent point about their simplistic framework on who actually travels. I am amazed about how some people are writing the furore off as “PC gone mad”. Again, completely missing the point. To be irreverent it so mainstream anyway. It shows such lack of depth in their thinking it concerns me.

  7. February 17, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    I’m with you. It sparked lots of discussion this weekend, no one was as highly charged as I was, apathetic instead! I love your letter and would love to see the response you get. Good on you :)

    • sandy
      February 17, 2014 at 9:30 am #

      Thanks Lisa. Yes I am interested in the vague disinterest as well!

  8. jenna
    February 17, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    This: “While I know a load of people including some women in their 20’s when questioned on the video say “yeah, kind of lame, but whatever” – don’t discount this disinterest as acceptance and engagement. It’s better to consider this as another indicator of irrelevance.”

    So well said.