If you take a quick glance at one of Fort Worth-based American Airlines’ "Fly Forward" ads, you might think you’ve picked up a newspaper from the 1950s by mistake: well-dressed flyers stepping off a wide-body DC-6 four-engine propeller plane, walking across the tarmac on a red carpet.
Look closer, though, and you notice something else: Despite the clothes and the setting, some of these travelers look pretty gay.
And they are meant to. The ad isn’t a vintage print from Look magazine, not an antique trotted out for kitsch’s sake. It’s an all-new campaign targeting the GLBT traveler.
"We thought there was a sameness in many ads in GLBT media and wanted to do something different," says Tim Kincaid, manager of corporate communications for American.
Instead of the usual rainbow colors and same sex couples on a beach, they decided to "harken back to the vintage travel posters, which capture bolder colors, contemporary fashion and scenes that seek to make travel fun," he says.
The richly illustrated style echo to a time when air travel was considered glamorous and extravagant. In that way they are nostalgic, even dreamy.
But the two ads one with two men in Hawaiian shirts, one with two women looking at each other coyly are intended to send a message of inclusion, and remind people that a welcoming travel experience is a long-standing tradition at American.
According to Kincaid, the idea of a vintage campaign was suggested by AA’s Dallas-based advertising agency, t:m, and developed by t:m and Witeck-Combs Communications. The internal GLBT team at American helped polish and fine-tune the concept.
Although all of the artwork is new created by California artist Bill Garland it was inspired by American’s popular campaigns that ran from the 1940s through the early ’60s.
"We gave Bill several vintage AA ads to draw inspiration from and he did a great job capturing the essence of the old ad artwork," Kincaid says.
(One obvious addition since the ’60s: The ad copy directs travelers to American’s gay booking site, AA.com/rainbow.)
Kincaid won’t discuss how long the campaign is scheduled to run, except to say that they will continue throughout 2008 in national print magazines and online sources.
Dallas Voice, which was the first publication nationally ever to run both ads, was also included in the campaign. It is the only local gay newspaper in the country to feature the ads.
It is "our hometown paper," Kincaid says.
For more information, visit AA.com/rainbow.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 15, 2008