Qantas and Air New Zealand are not winning universal approval for their latest safety briefing videos, both of which use guest appearances to get more people to watch. In Qantas’ case it is actor John Travolta, and for Air NZ it is a risqué puppet used in the carrier’s latest round of advertising.
Travolta has a long-standing connection with Qantas. He is an “airline ambassador,” and has shown up to help publicize some of Qantas’ recent big events. Apparently part of the deal is that Qantas maintains the 707 that Travolta owns.
So it’s not really a surprise that Travolta would do a safety video, and lets face it, Qantas is no doubt quite concerned about public perception on the safety front.
But it seems that many Qantas staffers have been voicing their unhappiness at the Travolta video. They complain that it is “corny” and “trite,” and that it trivializes the safety message. They also dislike the use of the word “team.” Some suggest that the pilots who landed QF32 would have been a better choice.
I think that is being a bit nitpicky, but I would say that I find Travolta’s segment rather awkwardly scripted. I also wonder why, since they had him available, they didn’t do something a little less bland.
Here is the safety briefing video, if you want to make up your own mind.
Air NZ, meanwhile, has gone for a celebrity they basically created themselves (with the help of the Jim Henson Creature Shop). Rico is portrayed as a heavily accented animal that is apparently a bush baby, which is an animal from Africa. To me, he looks like a raccoon of some kind.
The puppet has been the centerpiece for the airline’s recent advertising campaigns, and his trademark is making innocuous comments that appear racy when delivered in broken English. So now Rico is bringing his jokes to the safety briefing. Here is the video:
Air NZ, of course, is well-known for taking an innovative approach to safety briefing videos. It has previously done a version featuring the New Zealand rugby team, and another that ends with an elderly streaking rugby fan. These were really effective in getting even jaded frequent flyers to watch the briefing.
However, Rico has not been a big hit with some Air NZ staff, and has provoked something of a “love him or hate him” reaction in New Zealand. Some staff are apparently offended by his risqué double entendres, and point out that if they used these lines at work they would quickly run afoul of the HR department. I personally think that the Rico ads are very amusing, and the jokes are definitely toned down in the safety briefing. However, I must say I am a little mystified about the marketing message. The character seems to have no association with New Zealand at all, which is odd for an airline that celebrates its national identity so vigorously. We don’t have bush babies or raccoons here, and the implication is that Rico is European or perhaps Latin American. It seems as if they have deliberately tried to steer away from a New Zealand image this time.