Saturday, January 15, 2011

Nostalgic about the '70s? This National Airlines ad may cure it...

...or, it may not. You'd have to be well over thirty to remember National Airlines (not to be confused with a cargo and charter carrier based in Ypsilanti, Michigan), which was founded in 1934 and merged into Pan American World Airways in 1980. Pan Am went into bankruptcy and ceased operating in 1991. In its heyday, National was strong on two routes: the East Coast route from the Northeast to Florida, and the Southern Tier transcontinental route connecting Florida, Texas, and California.

The ad shown in the clip at the top, which aired on TV in the early 1970s, continued a tradition of sexual innuendo that began in the '60s and culminated in the 1970s with the "fly me" (perhaps riffing on the old "Coffee, tea, or me?" gag) campaign, during which National painted women's names on its planes (see "Elaine" in photo above), and also aired ads like this:

As this Time article reported, some flight attendants (then commonly called "stewardesses"--male attendants were rare in those days) objected to this campaign; in particular, to the company's requirement that they wear "fly me" buttons on their uniforms. The article quotes National's PR director: "We had no preconceived idea of injecting a suggestive leer into the campaign." Um-hmmm.

According to one of the comments on the "I'm Maggie, Fly Me" video, the campaign was the brainchild of Dick Wolf, who went on to create the TV series Law and Order.

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