Skift Take

The millennials may not care about the United nostalgia, but old timers will surely remember the slogan. Ultimately, customers may not go for a pining-for-simpler-times slogan, especially if United's un-friendly problems with technology, customer service, on-time-performance, and the general miserable experience of air travel in these times continue.

When all else fails, turn back to nostalgia. And so United, with the Continental merger pains finally appearing to be in the rear view mirror — even as technology glitches continue to keep reoccurring — is bringing back its iconic “Fly The Friendly Skies of United” ad campaign. The campaign ran from 1965 to 1996 in a 31-year run that changed the face of airline marketing in America.

According to the New York Times, reporting on the return of the campaign:

The iconic tagline, created by Leo Burnett in 1965 and used by the carrier until it parted ways with the agency in 1996, has been resurrected in a multimedia ad campaign by McGarryBowen that is United’s largest in decades. The campaign also features George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” music United has been using continuously in advertising since 1987.

The new multimedia campaign, created by its current agency McGarryBowen, part of the Dentsu Network, will launch this coming Sunday with broadcasts during the NFL game, the PGA Tour championship, the season premiere of “60 Minutes” on CBS, and the Emmy Awards program.

The updated version of the slogan will be “Fly The Friendly Skies,” and the “of United” is being dropped. The new slogan will replace its current slogan “Let’s fly together,” which it has been using since the merger of United and Continental in Oct 2010.

The campaign will riff off “friendly,” such as “legroom friendly” or “online friendly” or “shut-eye friendly,” among others. The video ads will continue to use United’s theme song, George Gershwin’s 1924 “Rhapsody in Blue,” which it licensed from Gershwin’s estate for exactly half million dollars back in 1976, and has been continuously using it since 1987.

The first TV ad in this new series is embedded below:

These ads, in print, TV, radio, outdoor, and social media, will direct to an online minisite at United.com/flyerfriendly.

It continues the new branding in this pitch for it’s “wifi friendly” connectivity:

… and this one about the line’s “more room in Economy Plus” for a “built around you friendly” pitch.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_RY8hW66AY]

And the last (for now) saying it’s “big wide world friendly.”

Below, we have embedded some of the ads over the years when it was running its famous campaign and theme songs to go along with it. From where else, YouTube.

The history of “Fly The Friendly Skies of United” printed ads is featured in this commemorative ad created 20 years after the slogan was launched:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWTatPUGU7A]

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Tags: united airlines

Photo credit: Jeff Smisek, CEO of United speaks during at a news conference. Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

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