Ad of the Day: Southwest Airlines Aims High in Mini Musicals From GSD&M

Is that an airport or a dance club?

Who wants a song and dance from their airline?

We'll soon find out, thanks to Southwest's glitzy musical ads from GSD&M, part of the carrier's overarching "Transfarency" campaign.

Actual airline employees appear in the relentlessly upbeat commercials, lip-syncing and strutting their way through a series of loud, dramatically staged production numbers.

In the anthem spot below, set to Willy Moon's "Yeah Yeah," a terminal morphs into a slammin' club, and Southwest flight attendants Alphonso Thomas and Melissa Salaman, along with other airline employees and lots of dancers, bust moves to the booming beat:

Of course, real airports usually specialize in line dances—long and slow-moving ones—that make folks wanna get away, and stay away. But Southwest works hard to portray its travel experience as irrepressibly positive.

"Last year, we captured Southwest's 'low fares with nothing to hide' philosophy," says GSD&M creative chief Jay Russell. "This year was about making people feel it. And what does it feel like? Simple: It feels like 'Yes.' Yes, you can travel. Yes, you can use your rewards. Yes, Southwest loves flying you."

Next, customer service reps Tammy Davis and Guillermo Rosales join ramp agent Roy Nabors for a karaoke take on Journey's "Any Way You Want It":

Yeah, the '80s never died. (Except in that ad, right? Kidding. Kinda.)

"Every year we host a casting call and give our fabulous employees an opportunity to be the face of Southwest," says Helen Limpitlaw, the airline's ad director. "It's important to us that our people—the ones who make flying enjoyable—represent our brand."

That's how customer service agent Mary Ann Mayo Rodriguez and Captain Brian Kalchbrenner wound up shaking their thangs to "Whatever You Like" by T.I.:

Hey, if the captain's on stage … who's flying the plane!?

Finally, just in case "Yeah Yeah" from the anthem wasn't affirmation enough, customer service rep Michelle Lovett and ramp agent Matt Sherman work it to Jax Jones' "Yeah Yeah Yeah":

Clearly, the work takes a self-consciously wacky approach, and it certainly succeeds in that vein, even if song-and-dance routines might seem more suited to soft-drink commercials than airline ads.

But Southwest's Limpitlaw views the work as a statement of the brand's quirky personality. In her estimation, the more deviation from the category's familiar flight plan, the better.

"We celebrate our constant ability to stand alone," she says. "We embrace that, and it's purposeful. With these ads, we wanted to represent that Southwest is the carrier of choice for getting you where you need to go, but always having some fun along the way."


Client: Southwest Airlines

Agency: GSD&M

Chief Creative Officer: Jay Russell

Group Creative Directors: Scott Brewer, Ryan Carroll, Lara Bridger

Creative Directors: Nikki Baker, Leslie Shaffer

Sibling Creative Team: Rafael Serrano, Laura Canzano, Gus Solis

Planners: Jennifer Billiot, Michael Dezso

Account Service: Carter Nance, Shawn Mackoff, Amy Lyon, Audrey Henderson

Sibling Account Service: Ana Leen

Project Manager: Elizabeth Stelling

Business Affairs Manager: Desiree Townsend


Art Directors: Mike Ferrer, Judd Oberly

Writers: Mark Snow, Michael Page

Director of Production: Jack Epsteen

Executive Producer: Marianne Newton

Producers: Rob Lee, Lauren Beightler

Production Company: Smuggler

Director: Jun Diaz

Editorial: Cutters

Editors: Matt Walsh, Grant Gustafson


Art Directors: Lisa Donato, Rye Clifton

Writers: Shannon Lorenzon, Hayden Griffin, Amanda Whitehead

Art Buyer: Jessica Spruill

Producer: Leigh Ann Proctor

Account Service: Patty Liendo, Victoria Huffines, Garrett Menichini, Kristen Arsenault

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@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.