Tune in to this episode of Will It Stick, the podcast with Alexis and Melissa where they discuss how brands use creative advertising campaigns and PR stunts to boost sales and brand awareness and often with the intention to go viral. Alexis and Melissa share a passion for vacations and dive into looking at the mindset behind airline advertising from the 60s, when flying was just becoming normal. Join them as they take a look at advertisements from National, PSA, Continental, United, American, BOAC, and Ryan Airlines. From poems to porn, stewardesses became the highlight of advertising strategies.
The 60s era and regulation policies surrounding aviation led to marketing attendants for carrier differentiation. The bodies of flight attendants became integral to airline marketing strategies, and sent a rush of women to charm schools for the airline industry. Stewarding became the filler for a female’s short-term stint between college and marriage.
First, they take a look at National Airline’s advertisement campaign with “Cheryl”, and the sexy aspect that was meant to capture attention.
From “Catch me if you can”, to “We really move our tail for you”, various advertisements became catchy and employees really served to live and breathe their brand. The qualifications for stewardesses were highly specific and physically focused as cute uniforms and upbeat atmospheres created an experience for travelers. In 1965, Braniff brought an end to the plain plane as the aisle turned into a catwalk, and they experienced a 50% increase in business. Everyone jumped on the bandwagon—movies, novels, and even porn was made about stewardesses—but some airlines did not take the sex theme.
United and American Airlines went with show-casing the ideal woman and wife, while also making fun of her. BOAC Airlines put out a poem ad with an Asian woman.
While everyone seemed to focus on the stewardesses, because their target market was men, one airline targeted the wives—American Airlines. With their “Wives fly free” advertisement, American Airlines missed that their publications were only printed in areas where men were reading, so issues with mistresses arose. 1967 United’s ‘Take me along’ musical playoff in 1967 brought huge revenue raises not only for United but industry-wide. Over the next decades, everything started becoming more gender-neutral as the term “flight attendant” was used, and outfits changed. However, even in the 2000s, sex sells—Ryan Air proved this in their 2012 ad for red hot fares.
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Check out Vanity Fair for lots of the statistics provided.
Read The Atlantic article about sex selling seats for airlines.
Check out Vox for its article on vintage sexist airline ads.
Read the Jezebel article about how flight attendants organized against their bosses.
ABC News had a great article about airline ads.
Also, you have to read this article from Wahsonline.com about the soaring sixties.