Agency Aces: Creative that Embraces the Awkward

Digging into the world of advertising, Kyle looks at what insights, creatives are using to birth original concepts that build affinity between brands and people.

What a colossal nightmare some brands have had since our last Agency Aces a fortnight ago. Pepsi made protests look like some empowered hipster street protest, whilst at the same time, United Airlines were embroiled in a public… wait, United Airlines are still involved in a PR storm (the only difference is that the storm recently just caught fire). And yet, after these turbulent two weeks, United Airlines still have no sight of clear, blue skies ahead.

I simply cannot exclude air travel as the topic for this week’s Agency Aces (well that’s what my boss tells me anyways); but down here on the ground it’s easier to spot the silver lining when we’re not facing the storm head on. So, in this blog we’ll take a more positive look at how creatives are leveraging insights from different kinds of awkward situations to produce hilarious commercials.


Southwest Airlines

Insight – When life makes things awkward, running away is the best option.

Ah, we’ve all been there (if you haven’t, you’re a liar) – from cracking jokes at funerals to being honest about the taste of your mother in-law’s burnt chicken. When an awkward moment starts to hang in the air after something you’ve said, nothing feels more appealing then melting into the cracks beneath the floor.

Using this uneasy feeling to reimagine a previous campaign of theirs, the “Wanna Get Away” commercials celebrate the thought of jumping on a plane and escaping the awkwardness forever. This works so well because it’s a different take on ‘getting away’. Instead of the expected holiday imagery of white sandy beaches and turquoise oceans, these ads use the feeling of sheer embarrassment and needing to ‘get away’ (or escape) as the catalyst to bring attention to their air fare sale.


Virgin Airlines

Insight – Avoid being put in an awkward position, literally.

Before brands decided that being liberal is cool, Network BBDO Johannesburg decided to portray a love story as old as time itself – two men in a turbulent relationship. This turbulence however we find out is caused by an uncomfortable amount of closeness 10,000 feet in the air. Illustrating how space is more than a slight inconvenience during plane journeys, Virgin Atlantic was able to promote their new upper class suite by humorously showing this discomfort.

The way they bring this to light is smart because it naturally resonates with a mass audience. Even if you haven’t experienced the ‘joys’ of coddling a stranger whilst up in the air, chances are that if you’ve ever taken any form of public transport, people have invaded your personal space. By acknowledging the occasional awkwardness of air travel, Virgin instantly demonstrate empathy and build rapport with consumers.


Air New Zealand

Insight – Sooth awkward with luxurious comfort

Sexual innuendoes (in your end-o, waheyyyy) are an easy way to get a cheap laugh… or a deafening silence. Using the latter to set the tone in perhaps the most awkward situation of all; the first conversation between strangers, Air New Zealand could take a different spin on awkwardness.

By using humor to celebrate this uneasy dialogue, the Kiwi airline neatly promoted the comfort of their premium economy seating. They achieved this by illustrating how to ease the burden of emotional discomfort with the luxury of physical relaxation.


Essentially, these ads use the familiar feeling of awkwardness to bring their concepts to light, creating an emotional tie and building affinity with their audience. Using humor as the tone makes it memorable because people are far more likely to reference something funny, than they would an airline slogan.

By finding the human element within these common situations that they are often the cause of, airlines are able to inject some much-needed humor to bring their creative to life.

At Pulsar, we are dedicated to revealing the insights hiding in the very DNA of human behavior. Get in touch with us here, and we’ll show you how you can use it to improve your campaigns.


Kyle Ryan