I may or may not have mentioned before that I’m lucky enough to live in glamorous Los Angeles. Every once in a while, I have to fly somewhere else for a work trip (believe it or not, this blog is not my day job), and a fair proportion of the time that ends up being with Virgin America. I have no particular allegiances; they just happen to go to the places where I want to go and charge sensible prices.
There is, though, one thing that genuinely fills me with a sense of dread as I head to LAX to fly out, and it’s not the traffic. At some point on my way, I suddenly remember that Virgin America are the ones with that dreadful, awful, appalling safety video.
Introduced four years ago, and praised by people who work in advertising for having been watched by nearly six million non-travellers within the first few weeks (it’s up to two times that number now), it is directed by a director called Jon M. Chu (no, me neither!) and it includes a few Olympians, some people from a TV show called So You Think You Can Dance, and a finalist from American Idol.
The thing is, it’s really, really bad.
I don’t just mean that it’s annoying – it actually isn’t particularly. If you saw it in the middle of the commercials for the Superbowl, you would probably be quite impressed. You didn’t. You were about to take off on a transcontinental flight.
It does have a lot of in-jokes, such as a set of robot dancers and a child with a very deep voice. I’m sure the writers were laughing like crazy, but as passengers we have to watch these people sitting on implausibly comfortable looking seats, with the sort of legroom that even a regular first class flier would dream of. It’s easy to start getting annoyed pretty quickly.
Picture the scene: you have just settled yourself down in the seat where you’ll be spending the next five or six hours, and the aircraft is taxiing to the runway. The child in the seat behind you has just kicked the back of your seat for the sixth time, and on any normal flight, this is the time when the crew would start telling you what to do in the unlikely event of a water landing.
There are rules about what they have to tell you and demonstrate, and the basic principle is that yes, you might have seen it all before, but by reminding you, it’s at the front of your mind if something does happen, and hopefully you’re not stupid enough to try to carry your baggage out during an emergency, or to wear high heels on the chute.
What worries me is that none of that stuff actually comes across in Virgin America‘s video. Sure, it’s flashy and colourful, but having sat and tried to watch the whole thing, I can tell you that you have an exactly zero percent chance of digesting and remembering any of the information in it. It is, bluntly, dangerous.
I think that’s what annoys me. Virgin America has allowed itself to become the victim of a stunt by an advertising agency, and it’s a case where the brand has become bigger than the product.
Or is it hilarious and innovative? Make your mind up from the video and comment below, if you like.
As a footnote, am I the only one who finds themselves reminded of United Airlines at 2:43?