Sex sells, this has been known since the dawn of modern advertising. Airlines and travel companies use images of attractive people on beaches or ski slopes in their marketing, display images of attractive cabin crew on billboards and some airlines are racier then others … but few cross the line. The airlines that do cross the line of catchy to tasteless are those who play on shock value, such as Ireland’s Ryanair and Spirit Airlines in the United States … but Air India, India’s conservative national flag carrier’s new ad campaign for the New York – Mumbai route may push the boundaries farther than even Ryanair and Spirit Airlines.
Over the past few years Air India has struggled in the U.S. market, facing new competitors. New York, once a strong hold for the airline now faces competition from United Airlines, Jet Airways, Delta (via Amsterdam) and other carriers, offering more connections, alliance partners and better marketing. The cash strapped Air India has been seeking ways to win back its once lucrative routes and regain control of their brand image. Brand image is important for all companies and especially important for airlines.
Air India’s image has been tarnished for number of reasons over the years, but the latest released potential advertising campaign for the New York market misses the mark. The advertisement depicts a surprised black man seemingly about to engage in oral sex with a white woman, as an angry Indian lady, with an Air India baggage tag on her bag, is poised to walk out. The tag line of the ad reads “Daily Direct Flights Between New York and Mumbai. Now reach home faster.”
It is unclear if the advertisement is being released, however a source close to Air India’s North American marketing team has stated this ad was created by a creative firm working with Air India, using stock imagery, and submitted to the airline. Rohit Rao, of AeroBlogger, was informed that the ad was presented to Air India and the executives were horrified by, however the airline states, “the possibility that the advertisement may be used in the future cannot be ruled out.”
Catchy ads capture our attention, sexually suggestive ads keep our attention, but offensive ads tend to tarnish brand image … and an airline with a tarnished brand image, desperately seeking to be seen as a top tier travel experience in the skies does not need to be associated with any of the messages conveyed in this advertising for Air India.
Below is the racy and offensive Air India ad.