Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
Talk to just about any bibliophile, and they'll speak of books transporting readers to other worlds. A new ad by Audible UK plays on this sentiment by inviting people to Hogwarts, Gilead, Mars and other destinations of fiction through the Amazon-owned audiobook platform.
The 30-second spot mimics the familiar welcome and safety message that airlines broadcast before takeoff, while vintage-style visuals harken back to the 1950s and '60s, which is often referred to as the golden age of flying. With "Fly Audible," the brand appears to be cheekily repositioning itself as a travel company, tapping into consumers' pent up yearning to get out and explore after months of social distancing.
Debuting in the U.K. this week, the campaign's creative opportunity results from the unique context of global lockdowns, according to Ryan Newey, chief creative officer of Audible's agency Fold7.
"It fitted a moment that would otherwise never have existed. No other time can we play on the context of people wanting to be free to travel again," Newey told Marketing Dive. "The message of traveling in the mind's eye would have technically worked before, but not really resonate in the way it does now."
Vintage visuals and a modern message
"Fly Audible" was developed in recent weeks from mostly repurposed video, according to Newey. That route — along with other options such as splicing together user-generated content into a cohesive ad — remains one of the few options for marketers as shutdowns have forced a pause on in-studio production.
Radio ads complement the 30-second video spot, which closes with the line: "There is another way to get away." This attempt to reach homebound consumers keys into a bygone era of swanky aviation through images that mirror scenes from hit show "Mad Men." The creative technique of blending retro visuals with modern messages could stand out for today's consumers, who are inundated with COVID-19 ads that often look and sound alike. The spot was directed by Mark Denton of production company Thomas Thomas.
"If you were going to be a fictional airline, why wouldn't you be one during the golden era of flight, when travelers would get dressed up and be served coffee [and] towels, and it would feel like a real privilege or a special occasion," Newey said.
Remixing mindless moments
Before the pandemic hit, Audible UK and Fold7 were ready to release an entirely different summer campaign — one that chastised society for its smartphone obsession and positioned the audiobook brand as an antidote to "mindless moments," per Newey.
"We're all guilty of spending too much time on our phone and finding they just vacuum time, energy and life away, so Audible can be a refreshing alternative to that," he said. "However, during lockdown, it felt inappropriate for us to have any kind of commentary about people spending too much time on their phones, because suddenly those devices are our way to connect to the world."
"Fly Audible" follows the Mindful Moments campaign from 2018, most recently including a spot, "Temptation," in January to remind people there are richer ways of spending downtime. Though not directly developed within the ongoing Mindful Moments effort, the new aviation-themed ad still aligns with Audible UK's core message of addressing consumers' desire to stop scrolling and spend their time better.
The latest spot represents a slight shift in creative tone to bring some joy into people's lives, Newey said. "We stepped outside of our core strategy for a moment in time."
The timing for "Fly Audible" makes sense, as many consumers are now fatigued of COVID-19 messaging in marketing. An international survey conducted in April found that 41% of people were ready to hear from brands about topics unrelated to the pandemic. Since then, brands including Coca-Cola and Truly Hard Seltzer have dabbled in non-coronavirus spots, suggesting marketers may see a more stable environment that's conducive to returning to "normal" creative themes and marketing campaigns.
'Another way to get away'
Audible UK and Fold7 are looking to expand the new aviation ads into a broader cross-channel effort in the coming months, according to Newey. The team plans to print vintage-style posters of fictional universes found in popular novels, plus a mobile feature that lets readers scan a physical book to send postcards from the book's destination. Postcard recipients would then receive a discount for Audible, Newey said.