Friday 27 March 2009

Southwest have it all Rapped up

Only this week, the Financial Times reported that the airline industry is in dire straits. With the recession fully taking hold, fewer people are flying and fewer still are paying premiums for business and first class tickets. Since these are the major money spinners for airlines, profits in the industry are nosediving sharply.

With this in mind, it is no wonder that US budget carrier Southwest Airlines is bigging up a member of staff who – to save putting himself to sleep having made the mind-numbingly boring safety announcement for the fifth time that day – decided to liven it all up Will Smith style to the delight of a passengers who posted the video on YouTube.

The blogs and papers reported that it was an instant hit, with hundreds of thousands of viewers in just a few days, though a bit of savvy sleuthing by Abchurch found that actually a video of the rapping attendant first surfaced months ago. Either way, in these times, PR like this is priceless, and that a video from one girl’s cell phone in the US can end up in the UK’s Daily Telegraph really illustrates the power of viral marketing. The bonus for Southwest is that this is completely genuine and transparent, embracing the founding principals of social media. This is in huge contrast to companies who have to pay an agency to create videos that are intended to go viral. Not genuine, not transparent.

But while hunting for the video of this I actually found two versions; one filmed by a passenger (linked above), and another filmed from right next to the man himself. If you play a ‘spot the difference’ game, you will notice that:

1. the second video was shot on a camera that was of significantly higher quality than a phone.
2. there were fewer crazy passengers screaming “Yee Ha!”
3. David Holmes no longer has a sheet of paper with the words on it
4. the passengers are different

This, of course, made me think that Southwest cottoned on to the popularity of the video and decided to film David rapping for their own PR efforts, although it doesn't seem to be on their official YouTube channel NutsAboutSouthwest. Official or not, does this change how genuine the video is? I don’t think so. Now there are lots of passenger videos of him rapping, on flights headed all over America. I think that Southwest are making the most of a brilliant opportunity that has come their way. And as the guy mentions at the beginning of his spiel, many of the stewards on Southwest have ‘talents’ which include singing or dancing. I think if Southwest are open to letting their staff and passengers have fun on a flight, and they benefit from it so positively, then there is no reason they should not make the most of it – just as long as they don’t go after all their other staff and start filming them doing crazy tricks too often.

These are – ahem – turbulent times indeed for the airline industry, but it looks like, for a while at least, this great viral video will help keep Southwest flying high.


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