Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Our Super Bowl Past: American Airlines 1988

This commercial, produced in 1988 and filmed by Ridley Scott's production company, RSA, didn't begin it's life as a Super Bowl commercial at all but just another part of American's corporate advertising, which I had been handling in print for a number of years at the agency Bozell in Dallas, Texas. But once finished, the client was so impressed that a media budget for the Super Bowl appeared.

The insight here involved people wanting to feel confident in their air travel and the fact that the great majority of pilots hired by American came from military backgrounds. For filming we built an entire air force at an abandoned runway at the Mojave, CA airport, used boneyard planes, repainted and towed around by cables and worked for three days in 117 degree heat with no casualties.

Writers: David Everitt-Carlson, Patrick Scullin. Art Director: David Everitt-Carlson. Director: Terry Bedford, Ridley Scott Associates Agency: Bozell/Dallas

As we sat on the floor at my partner Pat's house to watch the game, I remember distinctly not being apprehensive or excited at all, as I had already seen the thing hundreds of times in editing and post scoring. After the spot aired, I called my parents at halftime to see if they had seen it. "Sure we saw it", my father said, "but you weren't in it. Did you direct it?" I explained to my dad that I wasn't an actor and that we hired directors to help us realize ideas for our clients – but that the idea had been mine and I had written the original scenario. "Really", he responded, pretty much non-plussed. "That's the easy part!"

The commercial won a Gold Addy, was Clio shortlisted and nominated for a DGA award for cinematography - but most importantly helped position the client in a leadership role at a time when airlines were being heavily criticized for lax service and operating procedures.