Etihad Airways’ new television commercial features the voice of the late Bobby Darrin crooning the smoky jazz club standard, Beautiful Things, as Etihad’s beautiful passengers visit beautiful places around the world.
The commercial began airing on television stations in Australia, China, Germany, India, Japan, Nigeria, the UK and the United States on 4 March, after a launch in the United Arab Emirates a day earlier.
Etihad handled the multilingual challenge by skipping narration altogether. The one minute spot ends with a simple tag line, “The world is our home. You are our guest.”
Etihad president and chief executive officer James Hogan gushed about the ad after showing it to me during an interview in New York on Monday. “It’s a great ad,” he said repeatedly. “And this is a global campaign focusing on the brand, the product, the service.”
As Hogan explained it, it is also a celebration of sorts. It has been several years since the airline’s last big brand advertisement. During this time Etihad has been working to make sure service is consistent on every flight and at every one of the 86 destinations it serves.
“You have to get your airline aligned,” Hogan said while ticking off the expanded routes and partnerships that have expanded the Etihad footprint over the past few years. It is “a mark of confidence that what we’re saying we will deliver, we will deliver, and not only deliver, exceed”, he said.
Etihad has tried to join Singapore with this emphasis on high touch service, according to Shashank Nigam, an airline marketing strategist and CEO of SimpliFlying. Onboard service is harder for the competition to replicate, he said. “The ad should be effective to the business traveller market. Though, it runs the risk of setting expectations too high, especially for someone who might be travelling in economy class and then might be disappointed.”
Etihad executives showed no ambivalence about the glossy television commercial, the work of London’s Rogue Films and the advertising agency M&C Saatchi though viewers of the ad on You Tube were not universally wowed. One called it a bad music video while another wondered just what product was being touted. Even Aviation Week was critical saying it was style over substance.
In a four minute segment that goes behind the scenes of the filming, Barry Brand the creative director at M&C Saatchi explained that the goal of the producers was to show how beautiful things become part of the Etihad’s experience.
“Etihad takes their inspiration from the best the world has to offer,” Brand tells the camera.
Etihad isn’t the first airline to speak to passengers’ desire to return to the glory days of aviation. When American Airlines and US Airways announced their new partnership on 14 February, it released a new advertisement narrated by Jon Hamm, the actor who plays advertising executive, Don Draper on the US television hit, “Mad Men”. Known for his character’s ability to sell anybody anything, Hamm has his work cut out for him shilling two airlines that have together been to bankruptcy court three times and have also been the subject of ongoing consumer complaints and labour unrest.
“It’s time to make a change. It’s time to be better versions of ourselves, to be greater than expected and more than before,” Hamm says of American and US Airways. “Starting now we begin a new chapter.”
Customers of the new American Airlines may very well be very interested in reading the chapter Hamm is talking about. But it couldn’t be more different from the story Etihad is telling.
See how Etihad made its new television ad in the video below.