4 mars 2004

What does the choice of a spokesperson say about an ad campaign?

An article about Robert Redford starring in United Airline’s new ad campaign got my attention in the New York Times this morning (free subsc. req.).

New Airline Campaign

The voice at the end of the commercials is (…) familiar: that of Robert Redford, the actor-director-environmental advocate. It is the first time Mr. Redford is thought to have taken part in a corporate advertising campaign.

In between the music and Mr. Redford, United, a unit of the UAL Corporation, has come up with a series of four commercials by well-regarded animators that use muted colors and sentimental stories to depict travelers aboard the airline. (…)

Mr. Redford closes each of United's commercials by saying, "Where you go in life is up to you. There's one airline that can take you there. United. It's time to fly." His voice is heard for about seven seconds.(...)
The rest of the article goes on about the quality of the animation used in the clips, the targeted media buy and other issues.

Reading the article made me wonder... Is it just me or is there a disconnect when an “environmental advocate” endorses an airline? Considering that airplanes and airports do cause a number of environmental problems, how can Mr. Redford endorse United? Something tells me that he’s going to have some consequences from this on the image side.

Here are some quotes from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ FAQ sheet on airplane pollution.

Airports are known to be major sources of noise, water, and air pollution. They pump carbon dioxide (CO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and nitrogen oxides (NOx) into the atmosphere, as well as dump toxic chemicals--used to de-ice airplanes during winter storms--into waterways. (…)

The growth of air traffic further frustrates mitigation of environmental problems. (…)

Air Pollution
In 1993, aircraft emitted 350 million pounds of VOCs and NOx during landing and takeoff cycles, more than double 1970 levels, according to the NRDC report. These two classes of compounds are precursors of ground-level ozone, which can interfere with lung function. (…)

The VOCs emitted by airports may comprise a variety of toxic chemicals, according to a 1993 study by the EPA. Chicago's Midway Airport released more benzene and formaldehyde than most Chicago factories. (…)

According to projections by the CARB, aircraft NOx emissions at so-called South Coast (the southern coast of California) airports will have doubled in 2010 over 1990 levels, to 24.8 tons per day or about 13% of 1990 levels.

Water Pollution
More than 4 million gallons of glycols were used for aircraft de-icing at 93 airports during 1989-1991, according to a survey by the FAA. Glycols are the most voluminous water pollutants from airports. (…)

Glycols and other chemicals used to de-ice planes during storms can be toxic to animals and humans.

At Maryland's Baltimore/Washington International Airport, an estimated 25% of glycols are collected following de-icing. That doesn't mean that 75% find their way into the waters. Some of that amount evaporates or goes into the ground, where it decomposes in about 4-20 days, says Williams. The FAA is developing a new model to try to determine how much glycol actually gets into the water.
Noise pollution ia also mentionned extensively.

So am I wrong here? Should somebody have said, listen Robert, I know there's a payday here but you shouldn't do this. It’ll hurt you in the environmental community. Tell me what you think.

Oh, a funny thing I had forgotten about the ad campaign is the fact that United's news release announcing the campaign's launch doesn't tell us about Robert Redford's involvement.

United will debut a new global ad campaign this month that introduces two high-wattage co-stars: a unique and elegant visual style and a new tagline, “It’s time to fly.” The campaign will break in print on February 18, and on television during the Academy Awards telecast on February 29.
The Times' article does mention that fact.

Thanks to adrants for the heads-up.
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