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United Airlines’ first campaign in a decade embraces 'historic demand'

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By Webb Wright | Junior Reporter

May 16, 2022 | 4 min read

United Airlines has gone wheels-up with its first national advertising campaign in nearly a decade. The fully-integrated campaign, called ‘Good leads the way,’ takes off at a time when commercial air travel is reaching historic new heights amid the waning Covid-19 pandemic.

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United employees take center stage in the airline’s new fully-integrated campaign / Ketchum

Developed in collaboration with United Airlines’ agency of record 72andSunny, the campaign “tells the story of United’s leadership in areas like customer service, diversity and sustainability, and captures the optimism fueling the airline’s large ambitions at a time of unprecedented demand in air travel,” per a statement. That story will be told through video (including a new ‘anthem film’), out-of-home (OOH) ads, campaigns on digital and social, and other channels.

Actual United employees will take center stage in the campaign. More than 60 staffers will appear across the new ads – the most the company has ever featured in a campaign.

“Putting our employees in the spotlight helps us underscore that ‘Good leads the way’ is more than a tagline,” said Maggie Schmerin, head of global advertising and social media at United Airlines. “It’s what tens of thousands of the best airline professionals in the world do every single day when they show up to work.”

United also aims to emphasize some of its most core brand values – including sustainability, diversity and inclusion – in the campaign. The new anthem film, for example, will serve as an “emotional stake in the ground around the intention and impact of ‘Good leads the way,’” and will feature “a narrator [telling] the true story of an airline on a mission to be a force for good on their planes and in the world.”

The commercial air travel industry, which came to a near-standstill during the darkest days of the pandemic, is once again kicking into high gear as international travel restrictions are lifted and throngs of lockdown-weary travelers take to the sky. United says that it intentionally decided to launch its new campaign so that it would coincide “with the kick-off of the summer travel season and a historic increase in demand.”

That increase appears to already be noticeable in the numbers of people that are traveling through airport security across the United States. According to data from the Travel Safety Administration (TSA), 2,327,671 people went through a US airport security checkpoint last Thursday. On that same day in 2021 and 2020, the numbers were 1,743,515 and 234,928, respectively.

“As we kick off the summer travel season, we are entering a historic post-pandemic era of commercial air travel with unprecedented demand levels,” said Schmerin. “This inflection point is truly the perfect backdrop to unveil United’s first new brand campaign in nearly a decade.”

‘Good leads the way’ ad content will begin appearing today onboard United planes and in airport terminals, as well as on TV, billboards, streaming platforms, digital, social and “through unique, contextually relevant and unexpected spaces,” per the company.

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