United bringing back 'friendly skies' ads

Also the "Rhapsody in Blue" theme that had been a centerpiece of the airline's advertising in the 80s and 90s. All the major carriers are back on the air with branding efforts that are geared to bring out the positive aspects of air travel. Some background: United first brought out the "friendly skies" in 1965 when the airline hired Chicago's Leo Burnett ad agency. The campaign was aimed at invoking warmth and caring for a stodgy airline that had focused nearly all its attention on business travelers. By the 1960s, however, more leisure travelers were buying airline tickets, and the industry needed to include those customers in its marketing efforts. The ads that really stood out for United came when the Leo Burnett folks were able to acquire the rights to "Rhapsody in Blue." Gershwin told a biographer that the piece, ironically, came to mind on a train trip to Boston. He heard it as "a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness." The agency mixed those wonderful rhythms with quick cuts of everyday American life and produced truly memorable advertising. Below is a 1988 spot that for my money is one of the best airline ads of all time (minus the shoulder pads). Voiceover is Gene Hackman.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
The multi-talented Mark Lacter
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