Digital

Interview: American Airlines’ Tips for Creating Hit YouTube Videos

Feb 19, 2014 9:20 am

Skift Take

American continues to demonstrate that it’s not afraid to both invest heavily in and experiment often with various forms of social media.

— Jason Clampet

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American Airlines

From the American Air video "What happens during a weather delay." American Airlines


Last week we released our latest Skift Trends Report, Online Video Strategies in the Travel Industry which takes an inside look at how travel brands — especially airlines — are using online video to reach new customers and deepen relationships with existing ones.

It is the most definitive state-of-the-market report on this big-growth sector in travel.

In preparing the report, Skift spoke with Jon Bird, Creative Manager of Social Marketing at American Airlines about how his airline created its “behind-the-scenes” series on YouTube (clip below). Parts of the interview are extracted below.

For the full interview buy the report.

Skift: What was your thinking behind this?

Jon Bird: We decided to take certain questions and topics that we were getting a lot and explain them in an honest and unpolished manner. There were some misunderstandings that our customers would consistently bring up on Twitter and Facebook, and we thought that the best way to respond would be with short videos.

One thing to note about those particular videos is that the production value is a bit rough around the edges.

The production value is intentional here. On YouTube, the higher the marketing and production value, the less authentic a video feels. Of course, it also reduces cost. We were able to put these together cheaply compared to a sleek broadcast commercial, but the shaky camera and imperfect sound lends itself to credibility.

It’s not worth it these days to spend a huge amount of money on every single kind of online video. You can go out there and create a video with your cell phone that can get people’s attention just as easily as a professional film crew. The internet often rewards openness and transparency more than snazzy marketing.

Skift: What are your objectives with online video?

Bird: Online video is a great visual medium that allows for great storytelling and it allows us to be much more flexible in the type of content that we create, since we aren’t constrained by the 30-second slot.


The general goal with online video isn’t lead generation per se, but positioning the brand as responsive and transparent. It’s perfect for sharing some of the thought and hard work that goes into running our operation.

Skift: How do you segment your content online? Do you have separate YouTube channels for different types of video?

Bird: Not everyone subscribes to this, but we are more of a one-stop shop per platform type of organization on social media. For example, we have don’t have a separate twitter handle for assistance, just one account for all purposes.

We believe that in most cases customers have one relationship with the brand per platform. People aren’t likely to subscribe to more than one YouTube channel for just one company. So we only have one brand YouTube channel that handles all of our web-native content and television ads in one place.

Skift: Why is video so important to airlines in particular?

Bird: The more complicated the business, the more difficult it is to tell your story. Airlines are massive organizations, and ours is the world’s largest. There may be messages that are difficult to convey, and the ability to create videos can help make our business easier to understand.

The video explaining why fares fluctuate is a great example. Nobody has any idea why that happens, and it seems arbitrary if you don’t understand it, and it’s very frustrating. If we can take those opportunities to explain things like this to our customers, the brand can benefit from that. Any brand or company that has problems conveying complex concepts could benefit from that type of content.

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