Sunday, January 25, 2004

Aloha Airlines is leaping into the big leagues with three 30-second TV spots to air in California during the Super Bowl. For a closer look at the Aloha commercials, see below.

Aloha is
Super Bowl bound

The local carrier is pushing
its expanded West Coast service
with spots during, before
and after the game

It was late August when Glenn Zander, Aloha Airlines' president and chief executive officer, led two dozen Aloha Airline executives to a meeting with the company's advertising agency. Zander, who has run the airline since 1994, clearly had something on his mind, said Nick Ng Pack, president and chief executive officer of Milici Valenti Ng Pack, which has had the Aloha account for more than two decades.

"In the meeting, I started hearing certain phrases from Glenn over and over again," he said. " 'Aloha is the best kept secret in the airline business,' 'Aloha is the best kept secret in the airline business.' "

Then Annette Murphy, senior vice president of passenger sales and service, said something that made the veteran ad man's head turn.

"She said 'We are sooo not like the other guys,' " Ng Pack said. "It was a very precise position to understand."

Zander and the others in chorus said "Yes, that's it."

"OK, that's what we're going to do," the Aloha chief said. "We'll market the airline around that strategy, our service and courtesy, because we aren't like the other guys."

Zander then gave the agency an assignment, slowly turning to look at Ng Pack and George Chalekian, the agency's executive creative director.

"I want," Zander said, "Super Bowl quality spots."

The room went momentarily quiet.

"We thought we knew what he meant; that (the commercial spots) had to be great." Ng Pack said. "Not that Glenn actually meant these were for the Super Bowl."

The creative team for the marketing campaign went to work with Chalekian as editor.

With sketches covering windows and notes covering a small round table, the creative and account servicing team at Milici Valenti Ng Pack advertising agency discusses ideas and develops promotional plans. Those who worked on Aloha Airlines' Super Bowl ads were, from left, Kimberly Tamashiro, George Chalekian, Marlene Teramae, Nick Ng Pack, Dave Daniels, Gary Humemik and David Taga.

Nearly a month passed until Zander and three other Aloha executives returned to Milici Valenti Ng Pack to evaluate the four ad campaigns that had been winnowed down from more than some two dozen.

"Literally, within a half hour they had tears rolling down their cheeks," Chalekian said. "We had to stop the presentations they were laughing so hard."

Then Zander pensively asked Ng Pack: "What's the cost of a regional 30-second regional commercial" during CBS's Super Bowl XXVIII broadcast.

For the target area of Southern California "it's very, very expensive ... about $300,000," Ng Pack said.

(A national 30-second commercial is $2.3 million.)

"Yeah?" said Zander. "Well, how much for three spots?"

The normally unflappable Ng Pack remembers his body jolting slightly.

"The question knocked all our socks off," he said. "I thought, my God, Glenn is really going to go for this; he's not going to buy one Super Bowl spot but three!"

Zander told the agency to produce the three commercials for Super Bowl XXVIII, setting in motion Hawaii business history. Aloha Airlines will become the first Hawaii business to advertise on a mainland broadcast of the Super Bowl, according to local ad executives.

This was something Zander had been thinking about for at least two years, Ng Pack and Aloha execs said.

Zander was not available for comment.

In summer 2002 at another meeting with the agency, Zander first asked about the costs, but Ng Pack dissuaded his client from taking the giant step.

"The airline didn't have the critical mass then" until Aloha's West Coast route expansion was completed, Ng Pack said.

"It's very tempting to hop on the Super Bowl because (the agency) stands to make a reputation and it would have been a big year for us," Chalekian said. "But it wasn't in the best interests for the client ... we didn't have enough service, enough presence, enough of everything to justify the expense."

This year is different, Ng Pack said.

"Glenn has focused on getting the right size planes to the right size markets for the most convenience," he said. "The airline has reached that critical mass.

"There are enough flights -- five daily from Southern California alone -- to merit a major marketing investment" in Northern and Southern California.

"Glenn knows he's, in a sense, launching a new brand in these spots and there's no better place to do that than the Super Bowl," Ng Pack said.

The Super Bowl's Southern California viewing audience is 5 million to 6 million people, Ng Pack said.

Peter Gardiner, chief media officer with the media buying firm Deutsch Inc., says the event "remains the pinnacle of media exposure for companies with something to announce."

Zander and Ng Pack believe Aloha Airlines has a lot to announce. The airline will make its own Southern California touchdowns with three Super Bowl adds and six others pre and post game.

The 30-second spots will be shown during the Super Bowl in Southern California from north San Diego County to north Santa Barbara county and one will air in Hawaii, Ng Pack said. The cost of nine slots is about $1 million, not including production costs, which Aloha officials declined to reveal. The airline also would not say what percentage of its annual marketing budget the commercials represent, though one executive said it is "substantial."

Aloha's first commercial -- "Check In" -- will be televised in the coveted two minutes before the 3 p.m. kick off, with the next two -- "Barter" and "Call Button" -- between the second and third quarters, Ng Pack said.

The Super Bowl ads were a coup for Milici Valenti Ng Pack, which has never developed a Super Bowl commercial.

"Super Bowl is the Holy Grail for an agency and the client," Ng Pack said. "It's where you get measured and make your name."

With Zander's blessing in late October, the agency hunted for an "A" list director. Aloha had gotten late into the Super Bowl commercial game, so many directors were unavailable.

With December closing in, the agency got lucky, finding New York-based Rick LeMoine, who had directed other ads for Super Bowl placement.

Radical Media production company -- with offices in New York, Santa Monica and Australia -- was used for the mainland filming on LeMoine's recommendation. The company spent about six weeks until mid December getting film locations and gathering crew and equipment.

"Barter" and "Call Button" were shot in a made-for-filming airplane fuselage in Burbank. "Check In" was done at an empty terminal at Ontario Airport.

The creative team, including Chalekian, spent three weeks in December in Los Angeles for final casting and filming.

About a week before Christmas, Zander joined Aloha marketing executive Stephanie Ackerman, and Ng Pack in Los Angeles to watch the rough cuts of the first two commercials.

"He sat down and we played them and collectively everybody held their breath until Glenn laughed, then we laughed," Chalekian said. "When he said show it again, the room just fell apart. They heard us to the far ends of the editorial house."

But will the ads work?

Ng Pack says there are two methods of judging the commercials' success: qualitative and quantitative.

"The talk value, the buzz," he said. "We'll be looking at market buzz ... especially with travel agents and customers who have seen them."

Quantifying success will be done online.

"Aloha will be launching a new Web site (before the) Super Bowl ... and we'll check the correlation of calls to the airline and visits to the Web site to the time frame of the commercials," said Ng Pack.

The spots will continue to run in Northern and Southern California and Hawaii, with additional media buys for high profile TV events like February's Pro Bowl at aloha Stadium and during next season's Monday night football on ABC.

"Aloha Airlines is a big time brand now," Ng Pack said. "The Super Bowl puts it in the company with the big boys."


Humor was seen as key
to the ad campaign

The three Aloha Airlines 30-second commercials -- "Check In," "Barter," and "Call Button" -- are humorously understated with an "every person" look to the actors in situations travelers will recall, understand or just wonder if this is the future of air travel.

The spots were filmed in mid December in Southern California and directed by New York-based Rick LeMoine, whose clients include Budweiser, Microsoft, UPS and Volkswagen. He has directed other ads for Super Bowl Sunday.

"I always feel that comedy is best when it has a little piece of truth in it, and I felt like these scripts were not that exaggerated in the experience of traveling these days," said LeMoine. "I think we can all recognize ourselves standing in front of a counter and dealing with craziness of modern travel."

LeMoine said it was "very important to keep all the actors' performances grounded and real.

"I like to keep the actors straight and let the situation be funny," he said.

The message Aloha Airlines wants to convey in the commercials was simple, he said.

"They're providing a better service than other airlines in their category," LeMoine said. "So I didn't have to do much research to show that."

For George Chalekian, Milici Valenti Ng Pack's executive creative director, criteria for the commercials was simple: they had to make him laugh using "real people in real situations."

"We don't belittle or demean anyone, but are looking at the logical extension of what airline travel is becoming," he said. "We had to find those situations, the next logical step that are very human and very real."

The team settled on airline check in, food and in-flight service countered against Aloha's "graciousness and hospitality," Chalekian said.



It shows a fictitious husband and wife -- Tom Ormeny and Jacqueline Hahn -- trying to check in with a stern "Breeze Airways" counter woman. In staccato fashion and a no-nonsense attitude, the airline employee asks the couple several questions.

Reservationist: "That's two passengers to Honolulu?"

Man: "Yes."

Reservationist: "How many bags will you be checking."

Man: "Three."

Reservationist: "Window or aisle?"

Man: "Window."

Reservationist: "Will you be looking out?"

Man: "Yes."

Reservationist: "Fresh air or recycled?"

Man: "Fresh."

Reservationist: "Plan on using the call button?"

Man: "Uh?"

Reservationist: "Seat cushions?"

Man: "Yes."

Reservationist: "Overhead bin space?"

Man: "Yes."

Reservationist: "Want peanuts?"

Man: "Uhh yeah."

Reservationist: "How many?"

Man: "A few."

Reservationist: "Would you like your bags to arrive at the same destination?"

Man: "Yes."

Reservationist: "That will be $290 in incidentals."

Announcer: Why pay more for less. With five daily flights to Hawaii, Aloha Airlines brings you more of what makes flying better.

Man: "We're willing to sit next to a crying baby."

Reservationist: "You are."



It has a nebbish flight attendant (Avi Liberman) and his Vanna White look-alike associate (Cheryl White) auctioning a "typical" cheese sandwich with tomato to a shocked but hungry group of travelers/bidders: Amy Danles, Scott Beauchemin, Marcello Tubert, Shelby Leverington and Francesca Roberts.

Attendant: "Ladies & Gentlemen, the first item up for bid today is a cheese sandwich, that's American cheese with a slice of tomato.

"Let's start the bidding at seven dollars and fifty cents. $7.50, anybody for $7.50? $7.50 from the lady right here in gray. Thank you ma'am.

"Let's go 8? 8 dollars. Thank you ma'am. How about 8.50? "Anybody gonna go 8.50? Gentleman in the middle. I'm gonna close it out at 9. $9 it's yours. Right there he gentleman in the tie. Good work sir.

Announcer: Tired of cutbacks instead of comfort? Fly Aloha Airlines, for Pacific Rim cuisine and more of what makes flying better.

Attendant: "Next item; a nondairy creamer."

Passenger: "Yeah, I'll go a buck on the creamer."


'Call Button'

It features Edward Flores as the button presser who wants a pillow; Lenny Schmidt is the sleeper sitting next to him; and Amy Tenovich as the not-so-friendly flight attendant.

Automated Voice: "Welcome to the automated flight service directory. For food press once, for entertainment press twice, for comfort press 3 now. For blankets press once, for pillows press twice, to speak to a flight attendant.

"Pillows are temporarily unavailable please make (ding, ding, ding) select, select, selection incorrect.

Man: "I just want a pillow."

Announcer: "Fly Aloha Airlines. For our island hospitality and more of what makes flying better."


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