Denny’s Daily Zinger: Invidious Advertising by a Very Inept Agency

“American Airlines Focuses on the Glory Days of Flying”: This was the headline of Jane R. Levere’s story in The New York Times about the deeply flawed campaign for first class travel on American Airlines cooked up by McCann Erickson.

The first page of one of the two-page spreads features a photo of [Grace] Kelly, clutching her tickets and wearing a hat, gloves and pearl jewelry; the caption here says, “In 1953 we invented transcontinental service.” On the facing page is a photo of Ms. [Julianna] Margulies, with a caption that begins, “Today, we reinvent it,” and continues, “Enjoy refinement and exclusivity more often found on private jets, both on the ground and aboard the only true first class from coast to coast. Only on American. The legend is back.” —Jane R. Levere

[Check out the first image in the media player at right to see terrible advertising.]

Bad Idea
I flew in the glory days—including on American Airlines a lot.

Okay, I did not fly first class back then. But as Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography, “I know it when I see it.”

Comparing those palmy days to the sad-sack 2014 rat race is invidious and stupid. For example:

Bad Ads
Here is an agency and client smoking something and fanticizing rather than talking to the traveling public. [Check out the second image in the media player to see what I’m talking about.]

Denny Hatch is a copywriter, designer and direct marketing consultant. You are invited to click on the title below and read the first 3 chapters of Denny’s new book: “Write Everything Right!” (Opens as a PDF) No cost. No risk. No obligation. Contact him at

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at

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  • GeorgeM

    As an alum of McCann-Erickson, I am embarrassed. Visually, it reminds me of when the Jonas Brothers compared themselves to The Beatles. Then the ad copy boasts that "Only on American. The legend is back." Not true, and if it was what does that mean? It is not a legend. We once had real first-class talented citizens flying in real first class all the time. Even as a boy in the 1960’s, it made perfect sense to me. As a private pilot, I can promise you that our society’s "best" flies private jets today. I know because I sit in my little Piper burning fuel while they take off and land in priority over little me. I became a pilot to beat the system and I’m still in coach class! Sadly, this ad reminds me just how insipid our society has become. Gregory Peck vs. whats-his-face? Grace Kelly vs. whats-her face? It is a pictogram of first class vs. the B list. I avoid commercial flying altogether these days given the class of service and obnoxiousness of all the nefarious players. I’m beginning to think our society doesn’t DESERVE first class! McCann-Erickson’s slogan is "Truth Well Told." Wouldn’t be more honest to have these activist thespians argue why THEY think it’s better not having first class at all? Sell us on why it’s better now than when those one-percenters flew in the 1960’s. Yeah, good luck with that one.