Want People to Watch Something Boring? Start by Making It Fun

This is a guest post by Mairi Drysdale-Morgan, account director, public relations, at MMI Agency.

deltas-new-in-flight-safety-video-jpgThis is a guest post by Mairi Drysdale-Morgan, account director, public relations, at MMI Agency.

As any frequent flyer will attest, in-flight safety demonstrations are dull. We’ve seen and heard them countless times before. The best part about them is that they signal that you’re about to take off. We try to be polite and pay attention to the flight attendants doing their job but our eyes inevitably wander back to digital distractions, magazines and books, or the view outside.

We probably all fall afoul of being so confident that we know the drill—that if the worst happens, we’ll all react calmly and head for the nearest exit in an orderly fashion. Yet occurrences like the recent British Airways emergency landing in Las Vegas, where some passengers exited via the safety chutes with their wheelie bags in tow as the plane caught fire, remind us that emergencies can happen and humans can be idiots. The safety message needs to be presented and reinforced in a way that will actually be watched and then stick.

So I was pleasantly surprised on a recent flight when the safety video played. I watched from start to finish, and actually chuckled out loud. Afterwards, my husband and I even commented on it to each other about how good it was.

The script was probably very similar to a typical demonstration and the messages were the same. But the delivery was completely different. The theme, “Safety is Global,” was clear: this airline flies to lots of exciting places, so let’s talk about safety against those backdrops.

Throw in some wit, recognizable travel destinations, high-quality production values, the familiar Gershwin signature tune and, naturally, some cute animals. The result is a highly contextual, engaging piece of content that reinvents a serious, but tired message in way that makes people watch, listen and maybe even spark a conversation later.

If was fun to watch, held my interest, and made me excited to travel more (bonus!).

It’s not radical or unique, but creating this kind of content is a bold move for a corporate brand (or industry, for that matter) that hasn’t always enjoyed the best reputation, is under constant financial and regulatory scrutiny, and continually tries to maintain customer share. And it’s not just about safety—all content should help communicate the culture and identity of the brand, using every touch point with the consumer to maximum effect, just as the airline’s new instructional video did.

Regardless of the industry, an important takeaway from this is that marketing, PR, content and social media activations have to integrate deeply with the strategic business objectives in sight; otherwise, they are just tokenism. But just because pragmatic business reasons drive the activations, it doesn’t mean the presentation has to be dull—nor can it afford to be today.

The bottom line comes down to this: audiences, and their behaviors and preferences, are evolving. No business can afford to be “boring” in our multi-screen, multi-platform world. Consumers can choose what they want to see and when they want to see it, even in traditionally captive settings like an airline seat. The choice of content available is infinite, for all intents and purposes. Much discussion has taken place on the subject of ad blocking, but the same mentality is at play here. If people don’t immediately feel the relevance of what they are being served, they will quickly vote with their thumbs and click away.

The airline’s first video was so successful that a follow up was produced; it was launched in September and already has over 300,000 views on YouTube. Safety is Global II:

All brands can learn from this. Don’t let a seemingly old, boring set of messages be an excuse for poor content. Ultimately, if you want your target audiences to pay attention in the first place, think about content from their perspective; make it fun and engaging, make it shareable, and you’ll make something with a much better chance of getting those messages to stick.

mairi2Mairi Drysdale-Morgan is account director, public relations, at MMI Agency

You can find Mairi on LinkedIn or Twitter.