Shame on KLM

KLM like to regard themselves as masters of social media but they do have a habit of putting their clogs in it.

During the World Cup, they caused a storm on Twitter by making some childish/racially offensive posts (depending on your sensitivity) about the Dutch football team’s opponents. An airline from a small country depends even more than most on foreign customers and this was such an obvious no-no, they really should have known better.

Last week they promoted a video which became a huge Youtube hit showing their Beagle dog, Sherlock who is used to search aircraft for lost property. It was meant to be an example of the extra lengths KLM goes to in looking after its passengers. Except no data was produced to show that lost property is any safer with KLM than anyone other airline.

The video clip got a great deal of publicity in the US (where Beagles are a particularly popular breed). Several sensible travel writers used it as an example of an airline that was actually going the extra mile to look after its customers.

Just one problem. The whole thing was a fake. KLM do not have a fleet of Beagles to search their aircraft and Sherlock was hired for the day – and that is probably not his real name either.

Stand by for a lot of annoyance – no least from the travel writers who were taken in.

KLM’s social media gurus really need to learn there are two things people feel passionately about – football and dogs. Mess with either at your peril.

No translation needed

Turkish Airlines might not be the world’s best, but they do produce some of the best videos around.

Why BA does not want to fly England to the World Cup

The news that BA and the Football Association cannot come to terms about flying the English team to Brazil next summer was presented in the press as some sort of surprise. The only real surprise was that BA had even bothered to discuss the issue in the first place.

BA’s lack of interest came out fairly clearly in the quotes from the two parties. The FA said they had been unable to agree on a price whilst BA said that it would be very difficult for them to provide an aircraft and crew for so long.

Discussions about transporting national sports teams normally start from two totally different positions:

- The sports team expects travel for nothing and might even want to charge the airline for the “prestige” and publicity involved.

- The airline wants to charge normal charter rates.

BA does not normally work in the charter market and it would be difficult for them to give up an aircraft and crew during the busy summer period for such a long time.

The publicity value of carrying a national team to a knock-out tournament is highly questionable.

Inevitably, there is only one winning country so airlines are likely to fly home a losing team. If things go badly wrong, this can produce a negative value. The French football team had a collective breakdown at the last World Cup and such was the vitriol in the press, they had to be flown back in the middle of the night to escape journalists.

Football is slightly downmarket, few of the English players are particularly photogenic and expectations are always ludicrously high. It really does not match the BA brand particularly well.

Arranging transport for Olympic athletes is a very different issue. Firstly, it is seen as being a bit more up-market and in keeping with BA’s image and, more importantly, even if the UK team overall has a disappointing haul of medals, there are certain to be some heroes and plenty of photo-opportunities on a triumphant return.

Now, Richard Branson is saying that if BA do not want to fly the English team, then Virgin Atlantic will. Actually, Virgin flew the English team to the last World Cup so the only mystery is why they were not first in the queue again. I remember watching some excruciating footage on Sky who were given “exclusive access” to film on board the Upper Class cabin of the Virgin aircraft about to be used by the English team. The rather poor showing of the team in South Africa meant that publicity shots on the return were very limited. Maybe Virgin learnt their lesson and were not so bothered this time around.  If they do end up flying Virgin my guess is that the FA will not be getting such a good deal as last time.

Failing that, the FA should try Titan. A first class, specialist UK charter company who have aircraft available and plenty of experience doing exclusive charters for sports teams and pop groups. 

The only problem is that the FA would have to pay normal commercial rates…

A novel marketing campaign

This is the latest from Kulula Air, a South African low-fare airline based at Johannesburg – and it’s a real offer! Terms and Conditions are tight though – marriage certificates required. It’s valid on the Jo’burg to Cape Town route from 23rd to 30th April, in honour of President Jacob Zuma’s marriage to Gloria,  his sixth wife, on 20th April.

Time to give the Advertising Standards Authority real power

Actually, I mean, it is probably time to take away the power to police advertising away from the industry-controlled ASA and give it to a government body which has the power to  levy heavy fines.

The ASA takes up only a small number of the complaints it receives. Some of these are on grounds of taste and some are the result of a genuine mistake by the advertiser. However, a significant number are issues of simple fraudulent advertising. If a  company attempts to cheat its customers, they should be given fines so large that they they will think twice before attempting the same trick again.

Take the recent case which was upheld against Monarch.

On 8th June they sent emails offering £30 off holiday flights with a “must book by midnight Thursday 9th” deadline.

A similar email was sent on 15th June again saying the offer would close at midnight on Thursday 16th

The customer also complained that the fare he was pressured into buying in a hurry appeared to be the same before, during and after the promotion.

Monarch did not offer any evidence that the price before and after the promotion was different.

The ASA gave them a formal slap on the wrist and told them not to repeat the ads.

Had this been a financial services company, the relevant government body would have stepped in and given Monarch a substantial fine. £25,000 sounds about right – maybe £100,000 for a repeat offence.

Special offers are the life-blood of airlines. If they are to have credibility, they must be accurate and policed. Airlines like Monarch that take the public for fools should face much more serious financial penalties.

Swiss International Airlines and the Blatter Problem

You might not think that those running an airline are terribly concerned about the way that international football is administered. In fact, would be surprised if the antics of Sepp Blatter are not causing the senior management of Swiss some concern.

There are two markedly different views of Switzerland and its people.

The first is that the Swiss stand for neutrality, security and safety. They are scrupulously honest and their products are uniformly of high quality. Switzerland is a friendly haven in troubled times and its people are always welcoming.

The second is that they are a bunch of self-seeking bandits who will trade on their so-called neutrality, accepting cash from any quarter and would happily sell their granny. Whilst pretending to be open and hospitable they are themselves deeply racist. They cannot be trusted and they have allowed their country to become a home for disreputable international organisations which hide under the veneer of Swiss honesty.

Swiss, like all other major Swiss companies, relies on the first version. They have just started a new marketing campaign designed to emphasise their Swiss virtues. The last thing they want is some dodgy old wheeler-dealer with a loose tongue constantly reminding the world of the “other”, much less pleasant, Switzerland.

The danger posed to Swiss business by Sepp Blatter has not gone unnoticed. The Swiss Prime Minister made a speech to FIFA in the summer to remind them that it was very much in the interests of both their organisation and Switzerland itself that FIFA should be seen to have its house in order.

Politicians are not always as powerful as they would like us to think but they can project an image internationally which can help or hinder an airline.

For example, we all know that Alitalia has had severe problems but, despite the fact that it has been improving its service a little, I wonder how much damage was done to their brand by the antics of Berlusconi? If you have a clown as your international ambassador, it is not going to help the flag-carrier re-establish itself as a serious, quality airline in the eyes of the world. And as long as Putin remains in power in Russia, looking every day more and more like a hood than a politician, can we really believe that Aeroflot is a top world airline?

Forget football and its tawdry dealings, Sepp Blatter is doing serious harm to the image of Switzerland and its business. Maybe he is actually reminding us of a reality that Swiss businessmen would prefer remained hidden. I suspect there are rather more organisations and companies with management like FIFA’s than the Swiss government would prefer us to know about.  It could be argued that Sepp Blatter should resign because he is damaging football. In fact, I have a funny feeling that if he does eventually go, it will be because of pressure from the Swiss establishment over the damage he is doing to the country’s highly-cherished image.


Too much Pam

There is an unwritten rule that celebrities do not endorse two competing products at the same time. Ideally, if a company pays for a celebrity to be involved in their advertising, they would prefer they did not appear in any other campaign at all. Jamie and Louise Redknapp can appear in the Thomas Cook ads, and it is acceptable for Jamie Redknapp to be in the M&S ads as well but, when the Thomas Cook contract ends, you would not expect them to appear in ads for Thomson.

Pam Ann, the “stewardess from hell” is the creation of Australian comedienne, Caroline Reid.  Personally, I find the whole act a rather one-joke affair that is amusing for a few minutes but no more. Maybe that is why airlines rush to use her services for training videos, advertising and promotional work and then move on. The Pam Ann name seems to have been linked to so many airlines it is quite bewildering. She made a series of videos for BA cabin training, has worked with Cathay Pacific, Qantas and several others. Only yesterday she was filming with SAS and this morning I find her face leering at me from a SkyTeam ad.

Not only is the joke getting rather old, it is being spread rather too thinly.

EasyJet’s curious ad campaign

The new BA campaign might be a little cheesey for some, and it is unlikely to win over those who view the airline as hopelessly elitist, but there is no question that it brings out the strengths of the airline. The same could be said for Virgin Atlantic’s campaign last year. Now easyJet have launched their first major brand-awareness campaign for a long time and what a mess it is!

Watch one of the BA ads and you are certain to remember which airline is the subject. You can sit through a whole series of the easyJet ads and you might still have difficulty working out what they are supposed to be advertising. Are they saying the airline has good value fares and is friendly? That would be a fairly obvious statement but they manage to avoid passing on any message at all. A few destinations, some smiling people and a brief name-check of the airline at the end. What is it trying to say?

The campaign was premiered during an ad-break in Downton Abbey a couple of weeks ago. Within minutes, someone had tweeted to easyJet to say what a change it was to the BA ads because it actually focused on the passengers, rather than the airline. One might imagine that rather helpful tweet came from someone at the advertising agency or within easyJet. The whole point of a brand-awareness campaign is that it is all about the airline! Mentioning the name of the company as an after-thought at the end is not the idea at all.

Both BA and easyJet have spent a lot of money on their campaigns. BA’s is winning praise from all quarters, including within the advertising industry. By the side of it, easyJet’s attempt looks dreadfully inept.

Time for a new advertising agency for easyJet!

A rather strange safety video

Air New Zealand have gained a lot of publicity with some of their special safety videos featuring sports and television stars and now Turkish Airlines has jumped on the bandwagon with a special video featuring Wayne Rooney and other Manchester United footballers.

The video is really very long and appears designed for pre-teens. It is vaguely interesting the first time but if you took several flights with the airline, you would get very bored indeed. The whole point of these special videos is that they are supposed to grab the passenger’s attention. Could they possibly have the opposite effect?

Other than for the rather strange English accent of the voice-over artist, the other notable feature is that it is one of the last recordings of Wazza pre-hair transplant.

British Airways commercial alternative

This was filmed over a year ago at a corporate event but is worth a look if you’ve not seen it. The two performers work for British Airways and provide some good clean fun at their employer’s expense.