West Jet is a Canadian low-cost airline. And I give them no merits whatsoever for their graphics or brand identity – it is dire, as is most of their competition.
No, I am not praising them for that. What I do like about them is the way they are creating awareness for the company. You’ll find none of the predictable, super-slick, over-the-top airline advertising here. They root themselves firmly in real stories.
In November last year, they launched a series of films entitled Above & Beyond, celebrating Canadians who go ‘above and beyond’ the call of duty in their daily lives. West Jet says they are doing this because “the people that make a difference never ask for anything in return. They do it for no other reason than that’s who they are. And they inspire all those around them, including us.” That is great.
And the more I read about the company, the more I like the sound of them. Twice a year, they share a portion of their profits with staff and seem to have a great dialogue with their customers, who write nice stuff about them. When have you ever heard that about Ryanair?
The Above & Beyond films are beautifully made and run for about three to six minutes each. And the interesting thing is, you won’t see them on expensive TV commercial slots but on their own website or uploaded to YouTube, where they have found a big audience and get direct feedback from those viewers. Some of these little gems have got up to five million hits.
This kind of promotional film-making is known as ‘content’ in the advertising world and often rather sneered at by the more sort-after directors who want to make their mark in the world of TV commercials – a little like feature film directors who used to feel the same about TV drama. But, as we know, all that has changed. Even Woody Allen is now directing a TV series.
Slowly, things are changing – there are now far more people surfing the internet than those sitting loyally in front of TV sets watching the ad breaks. And, frankly, these days you have to look really hard to find an original commercial. Most are shouty, gaudy and downright insulting. But the world of ‘content’ is becoming far more interesting. It is a longer form for the director, giving time and space to tell a story with more freedom and less obvious selling. I am sold.
Here is a recent Above & Beyond film that I guarantee will touch you.