is this the worst advertising campaign of all time?

It’s no secret that many people are scared of flying. While most airlines would want to avoid acknowledging this fear, a 1967 ad campaign for Pacific Air Lines, which was supervised by comedian and ad consultant Stan Freberg, chose to embrace it. Newspapers and magazines ran full-page ads displaying the following message:

Hey there, you with the sweat on your palms! It’s about time an airline faced up to something—most people are scared witless about flying. Deep down inside, every time that big plane lifts off that runway, you wonder if this is it, right? You want to know something, fella? So does the pilot, deep down inside.

Needless to say, an advertisement that basically says pilots are scared of flying is extremely risky, and that may be an understatement. Executives at Pacific Air Lines objected to the ads when they were proposed, but the president of the company was pleased with the idea. Once the ads appeared in newspapers, many pilots became angry since they thought it just wasn’t true that they were scared of flying.

Pacific Air Lines had more to their campaign than just the ads, though. They also gave travelers items including a rabbit’s foot for good luck, a cuddling blanket, and a book titled The Power of Positive Thinking. It sure doesn’t seem very positive to suggest that pilots worry when their plane takes off and that people need a rabbit’s foot to get through a flight. In addition to the ridiculous items, when the plane landed, flight attendants were supposed to exclaim, “We made it! How about that?” If the campaign had continued, planes would’ve been painted the color of locomotives and whistles would have been installed on them to simulate the experience of being on a train. Pictures of telephone polls passing were planned to be projected in the cabin.

Not surprisingly, the campaign was a dismal failure. The company was already in financial trouble, which may have been why they were willing to run such a risky ad in the first place. Shortly after the ad campaign began, the president of Pacific resigned and the company became a part of West Coast Airlines. After the campaign was abandoned, the company attempted to sell the rabbit’s feet and cuddling blankets back to the distributors. I’m not sure if they were successful, but I doubt there’s much of a market for rabbit’s feet.

The information for this blog post came from a 1967 article in the St. Petersburg Times, now known as the Tampa Bay Times and a chapter in the book The Smile-High Club: Outrageous But True Air Travel Stories.


how restaurants design their menus

After perusing some interesting articles on how menus are designed to influence consumers to buy certain items, I have decided to write a short post summing up the tricks that I found to be most interesting.

  • Photos of dishes are useful, but some restaurants don’t use them or opt for illustrations instead because of associations between photos and common chains like Applebee’s.
  • Ridiculously expensive item’s are added to some menus to make everything else seem reasonable in comparison. For example, Balthazar Restaurant, the menu of which is dissected in a New York Magazine article, offers two seafood platters; a $115 decoy platter, and a second bargain platter–priced at $70. The amount of food in either platter is not specified, demonstrating how this clever ploy can make an item that lacks description and has an ordinarily preposterous price attached to it seem like an acceptable meal to purchase.
  • Sometimes a meal is offered in different sizes, but neither size is specified. This tactic can make people more likely to order the larger size when the smaller meal is sufficient, or make an expensive small meal seem reasonably priced.
  • Centered formatting makes sure customers don’t just look down at all the prices in a row and choose their preferred price. Also, it is smart to not use leader dots, dollar signs, or cents (If cents are used, it is smarter to use .50 or .95 than .99.). By neglecting signs associated with money, customers will be less focused on price.
  • According to the Wired article “The Hidden Psychology of Menu Design, “The eyes are drawn to boxes, and diners are statistically more likely to order whatever is inside them. Restaurants reserve them for profitable items or dishes the chef wants to promote.”
  • Dinners “for two” sometimes list the per person price because people often forget that it is really twice as much.
  • The Wired article also states that, “People are more likely to order something with a description than without it. Though overused, ‘caramelised’ has mesmeric power. Menu consultants often recommend unfamiliar terms: not sure what a ‘passion fruit tuile’ is? Why not order it to find out…”
  • If a dish has an ethnic name, people will think it is more authentic.
  • In the Guardian article “Restaurant Menu Psychology: Tricks to Make Us Order More,” Amy Fleming writes,

“Research has shown that classical music increases sales of expensive wines and overall spending in posh eateries, while French and German music increases sales of French and German wines, respectively (the diners are unaware of these influences). Slow music, and the scent of lavender, makes people spend longer in restaurants and pop music at 70-90dB will up the consumption of soft drinks.”

Click here, here, here, and here to view the four articles I used to find this information. Many more interesting menu tricks are found in them than are in this short list.