Frequent Fliers

All the buzz about airline reviews this summer has Shoptalk nostalgic for a good keep-an-airline-account-with-the-most-corny-but-effective-presentation-you-can-think-of story. The most classic one we know dates from July 1990, when GSD&M staged a particularly personal fight to keep the Southwest Airlines account it had held for 10 years.

As if showing Herb Kelleher—then Southwest’s chairman, CEO and president—a film retrospective of the past decade’s work and play together weren’t enough, the Austin, Texas, agency gave its creative presentation in a room done up to look like a cockpit. But what some former staffers called “the clincher” happened after the meeting, when Herb and his team looked down into the lobby to find over 100 GSD&Mers wearing black “Stand by GSD&M” shirts and singing the tune “Stand by Me.”

“Herb teared up. He was very moved by it,” says Terri Edson, then account supervisor and director of internal communications at GSD&M and now an exec at Kolar Advertising & Marketing. “We did our song, and we all waved and turned around and got on the bus.”

GSD&M wound up keeping the $15 million creative account in exchange for the promise to make the carrier more of a priority.