Between dead and pan lies a vast wasteland and Southwest seems to have filled it. The Texas airline’s trying viral advertising –communications that are so weird, so clever, so offbeat or so downright likable that people talk about them. But you have to wonder if Southwest’s new ‘be more productive’ campaign will generate the kind of positive buzz that the carrier wants. The airline has posted a new website it calls bemoreproductive.com with a number of videos that sort of look like television news reports, replete with “interviews” about Nick Pudder, a young employee at the generic company who has just won a productivity award – to the amazement and resentment of his colleagues. They then accuse him of using ‘productivity enhancements,’ much as a baseball player who hits too many home-runs is accused of using ‘performance-enhancing’ drugs. The Southwest-sponsored site has few clues as to its backing, just a ‘sponsored by’ icon; if you go to the airline’s in-house blog, ‘Nuts About Southwest’, references there are also tongue-in-cheek, without a clear claim of responsibility. It’s only if you go to the airline’s homepage itself that you begin to get the sense that Nick and the ‘Annual Productivity Awards’ may be a would-be act of cleverness. So deadpan is the airline that you almost cry out for some sign of a smirk, much less the shadow of a smile. The strategy may be to get people wondering about Nick Pudder. And maybe in a few days or a week or two, they’ll tell us that the real way to improve productivity is to fly Southwest. But until then, we’ll just have to guess, or maybe be brave enough to ask a clever friend to explain the joke. Which isn’t exactly the kind of conversation Southwest is hoping to generate.
Pay attention. These ads are funny. Seriously.
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