WestJet ‘milks’ its commitment to service

The airline takes a common metaphor for overbooked travel literally to emphasize its values of "treating people like people."

Everyone has heard the phrase, “when pigs fly,” but now WestJet is using cows to show how the brand’s customer care rises above for travelers who are to being treated like cattle.

Anthropomorphic cows moo their way through customs and check-in to the strains of New Order’s “Blue Monday,” dealing with flight delays and overbookings as lines get longer and longer. At the end of the spot, the brand claims it’s “Canada’s most on-time airline” and doesn’t do overbookings, claiming the “people should be treated like people.”

An accompanying video depicts the behind-the-scenes of the ad shoot, the purpose of which was to further emphasize the care attributes and that “cattle were treated incredibly well on set,” says Rob Daintree, director, marketing communications for WestJet. The quality of care the airline provides is an attribute WestJet has frequently emphasized, be it for its own cabin crew or passengers flying over the holidays.

Daintree tells strategy that the campaign reflects a common metaphor used online when travellers refer to the flight experience, and that the cattle execution is an effective way to describe WestJet’s brand’s care-centred positioning. Previous efforts have emphasized that concept by showing real staffers going above and beyond the call of duty, but when it comes to the new campaign, Daintree says it’s an example of how challenger brands can occasionally “be a bit more daring and provocative” with their advertising.

When it comes to emphasizing the on-time performance, Daintreee says it’s one way the brand is looking to connect with the business traveler going forward. However, he considers this campaign a mass play for the entire category, as any audience can relate to the pain point it illustrates.

“We don’t overbook, which is an example of us doing things differently,” Daintree adds.

According to air travel intelligence firm OAG’s 2019 Punctuality League ranking, no Canadian carrier cracked the top 10 most timely airlines globally, but WestJet’s on-time percentage was 10% higher than that of Air Canada.

Created by Rethink with media handled by Media Experts, the campaign consists of a comprehensive digital and out-of-home presence that will run nationally. In terms of overall spend, Daintree says it is in line with some of the brand’s larger efforts and it’s timing coincides with the ramping up of corporate travel leading up to Christmas. It will also be airing during high-profile events like the Raptors’ home opener, as well as the World Series.