United Airlines has launched a new ad campaign aimed at Southwest Airlines called “The Southwest Courte-C Call.” Quite frankly, I find the campaign curiously disingenuous and in poor taste.
Southwest Courte-C Call Ad Campaign From United Airlines
The ad, done in partnership with global creative agency 72andSunny, seeks to poke fun at open seating on Southwest Airlines. United has created a website called NotGroupC.com where Southwest flyers can register to receive a call 24 hours before their flight from United reminding them to check in (to avoid Group C) and suggesting they try United Airlines next time for a complimentary seat assignment. Here’s the audio recording:
The website compares United and Southwest in a “cheeky” way:
As a frequent United flyer and occasional Southwest flyer who will always choose United over Southwest, I find the ad in poor taste. To be clear, I am not offended by it…but I think the ad will not be convincing to any regular flyer and even if it prompts infrequent flyers to pop over to united.com to look, they will discover a number of issues:
- United sells “Basic Economy” seats that do not permit changes, carry-on items, and do not include a seat assignment unless you want to pay up in advance
- Even passengers who do not book basic economy tickets often have to pay for a “preferred” seat toward the front of the economy class cabin (and here we are not even talking about EconomyPlus) or take a middle seat in the rear
- Southwest continues to offer two free checked bags plus a carry-on plus a personal item on all fares while United is the only U.S. legacy carrier to prohibit full-size carry-on bags on basic economy fares
In other words, this cutesy ad actually reflects poorly on United…which is a sad byproduct of an ad campaign that I cannot imagine was cheap.
As a general rule, I would steer clear of talking about my competition in an ad. My favorite Untied ads are not poking fun at another carrier, but heralding the aspirational nature of travel:
And let me be clear that United has so much to tout. Its worldwide route network is second to no U.S. carrier. Furthermore, the carrier has made tremendous strides on its internet onboard (it is routinely fast and reliable these days… without exception in my experience). Finally, it does offer a premium product, unlike Southwest.
That makes attacking Southwest over open seating seem so strange to me.
United’s new ad campaign misses the mark (much more so than its prior campaign attacking Southwest in Denver did). It just seems so odd to me and I’m usually a sucker for airline ads. For inspiration, United should look to the ads above.