The Big Idea - The Advertising of Commitment: A Case History on Eastern Airlines

Alex Kroll

I'm not convinced that the Eastern Airlines advertising I'm going to talk about is a big idea. It has reached a lot of people, and touched them, in a very special way, in a short period of time. It has changed some people's perceptions of what Eastern is and Eastern wants to be. But big? I'm very conscious of its humble origins. And I have searched it for signs of bigness. Height, weight, width, bulk. And there are none. Nobody rushed into my office bloated, bulging at the cheeks with this idea. Logically, then, can it be big?

To me, from some early indicators, it operates on a different level. People see this advertising, and they don't just remember it, they sort of absorb it. It does not have the sledgehammery quality of the BIG's. So what kind of idea is it? Well, let's trace it back to its humble origins.

I came into the airline business last February. A bleak month for the industry. Not just because I started to work on the account. But for Eastern, bleak was a lighthearted description of the airline's condition. Consider this. Profits are down. Competition stiff and getting stiffer. Expenses rising. A generally soft market prevails. And the horse collar of the shorthaul system never felt tighter. And – the long dreamed-of gold – the South Pacific routes – had been denied Eastern. Later, it would seem like everybody from Lake Central to Mohawk got a route to Tahiti. But Eastern, zero. Personnel, quite naturally, weren't exactly dancing in the aisles. One of the parameters of our assignment: find a way ,of talking both to the public and to the 32,000 slightly depressed people of Eastern Airlines.