United’s New “Good Leads The Way” Ad Campaign

United’s New “Good Leads The Way” Ad Campaign

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United Airlines is trying to reinvent itself under the leadership of Scott Kirby. As part of that, the airline has just launched its first national brand advertising campaign in nearly a decade.

United launches “Good Leads The Way” campaign

United Airlines’ new ad campaign is called “Good Leads The Way,” and it “tells the story of United’s leadership in areas like customer service, diversity and sustainability, and captures the optimism fueling the airline’s large ambitions at a time of unprecedented demand in air travel.”

Here’s how United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby describes the campaign:

“In the past few years, United has emerged as a force for good and an industry leader. We’re taking actions that inspire pride among our employees and customers – everything from historic investments to fight climate change and training more women and people of color to become pilots to getting rid of change fees and upgrading our fleet with 500 new planes. This campaign serves not only as an exclamation point on our recent actions, but also as a commitment to how United Airlines intends to show up in the future.”

This ad campaign includes more than 150 different pieces of video, digital, social, and out-of-home content, and features more than 60 real United employees, the most ever featured in a single United content series.

Starting this week, people can see “Good Leads The Way” content onboard United aircraft and in airport terminals, as well as in television spots, streaming platforms, billboards, and across social media. This comes at a time when travel demand is surging, as United saw an 88% load factor in April, the highest-ever for a non-summer month.

Below is the main 60-second ad.

Then there are a bunch of 15-30 second ads about specific topics, ranging from saved connections, to new aircraft interiors, to sustainable aviation fuel.

Then below are some of the print ads that are part of the campaign.

How “Good Leads The Way” at United

So, what exactly are United’s claims about being a “good” company based on? Let me just copy and paste United’s claims about how the company is good for employees, for customers, and for communities, to give a bit of context on the campaign.

For employees:

  • Careers, not just jobs: United offers competitive pay and benefits, the chance to grow, and flight privileges to see the world
  • Only major U.S. airline with its own pilot training school: United Aviate Academy
  • New, state-of-the-art inflight training center opening this year in Houston
  • World’s largest flight training center in Denver
  • Surprised active employees with a special award of $1,000 each last fall
  • First major U.S. airline to roll out an employee COVID-19 vaccination program

For customers:

  • 500+ new aircraft – and hundreds of plane upgrades – by 2026, with features like larger overhead bins, screens in every seatback, Bluetooth connectivity and fast Wi-Fi
  • First major global U.S. airline to eliminate change fees on most tickets
  • Helped more than 288,000 customers and counting make their connecting flight this year via United’s exclusive ConnectionSaver technology
  • This summer, United will serve more transatlantic destinations than every other U.S. carrier combined and be the largest airline across the Atlantic
  • The award-winning United app brings ease to customers, through features that allow you shop by map, get the latest trip details, plan trips with friends and makes travel easier for people with visual disabilities.

For communities:

  • Hiring more than 50,000 people in the next five years, providing unionized, well-paying careers as pilots, flight attendants, agents, technicians, and dispatchers
  • Will aim to train 5,000 new pilots by 2030 through the United Aviate Academy, with the goal that at least half will be women and people of color
  • Invested more in sustainable aviation fuel production than any other airline in the world
  • In 2021, United donated more than $10 million in cash and in-kind contributions to non-profits across the country and worked with its customers to donate another 100+ million miles to charities that depend on travel
  • Industry-leading investments in electric aircraft designed to help us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions
  • Committing to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 100% by 2050, without relying on traditional carbon offsets

My take on United’s new ad campaign

Let me start by saying that in general I’m really impressed by what’s going on at United under Scott Kirby’s leadership, as the airline is headed in the right direction. United has become a legitimately innovative airline, and United seems committed to competing more with Delta than with American, and I’d consider that to be a good thing.

United still has a long way to go, though:

  • While United has a great vision for refreshing its narrow-body fleet with great interiors, that’s a far cry from the current experience, and it’ll be years before a majority of planes feature these kinds of cabins
  • While I think everything possible is being done to change this, United still has a culture and customer service problem, and as of now the airline is more in line with American than Delta when it comes to interactions with frontline employees

Nonetheless, I like the direction United is headed.

Now, how do I feel about this ad campaign? I like the message United is going for here. But I don’t really like the delivery, and I’m not sure how exactly to explain why.

I love an ad campaign that makes me feel some sort of emotional connection to the company, whether it’s due to a catchy theme song, a compelling storyline, or something. For example, I love the below United commercial, which aired after 9/11.

Admittedly there’s a time and place for everything, but am I the only one who doesn’t feel any emotion watching the new ads? It just feels so new age.

I like the idea behind the message, I just think the delivery is a bit too infomercial(ish), or designed for TikTok, or something? It’s not that I want an airline to make me cry, but… I guess maybe I do kind of want an airline to make cry? Or at least feel something?

Am I the only one who feels this way? Can anyone describe it better than I can, please?

Bottom line

United Airlines has launched a new “Good Leads The Way” ad campaign intended to highlight all the positive changes the airline is making. I’m impressed by the direction that United is headed, and I like the idea behind the commercial, I just think the delivery doesn’t resonate with me. But maybe that’s just me?

What do you make of United’s new ad campaign?

Conversations (33)
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  1. DML Guest

    I just saw the new campaign ad during a few brief commercial minutes. I rarely give more than a brief look during those breaks.
    The new ad took my attention and held it throughout the entire ad leaving me with an overwhelming amount of cudos to the ad team that wrote and produced it. It hit a very happy but calm spot in my mind.
    It resonated and impressed.
    Not so easy to impress this 68 yr old woman and seasoned traveler! Well done……….

  2. Mike Guest

    That new ad? Makes me gag!!! Has no place in reality!!!

  3. Steven E Guest

    A change of lipstick ….it’s still a pig of a carrier

    1. DCS Diamond

      I know that for a while not too long ago, starting with many operational and employee morale problems that plagued UA after it merged with CO under the "leadership of Jeff $mi$sek, the "smart" or "in-thing" to say was what a terrible airline UA was. However, only someone who is either utterly uninformed, irremediably biased or simply stupid would make such a statement today, considering how far UA has gotten in a relatively short time...

      I know that for a while not too long ago, starting with many operational and employee morale problems that plagued UA after it merged with CO under the "leadership of Jeff $mi$sek, the "smart" or "in-thing" to say was what a terrible airline UA was. However, only someone who is either utterly uninformed, irremediably biased or simply stupid would make such a statement today, considering how far UA has gotten in a relatively short time since it began its drive to become a competitive global airline. I'll just quote a keen observer of the industry, who is no UA sycophant, and leave it at that:

      Let me start by saying that in general I’m really impressed by what’s going on at United under Scott Kirby’s leadership, as the airline is headed in the right direction. United has become a legitimately innovative airline, and United seems committed to competing more with Delta than with American, and I’d consider that to be a good thing.

      --Ben Schlapping, in this very post.

      My own prediction is that when its 'metamorphosis' under Kirby is done, UA will stand head and shoulders above all U.S. airlines, including DL, which it already dwarfs in the FF department...

      G'day.

  4. Cbchicago Guest

    The new Ads are great and it is going to be a great year for UAL.

  5. Mark Guest

    I really liked the ads. There was some funny stuff ("Everybody's bags fit, but this story isn't about them, it's about YOU."), and when they get to "the end", "wait, no it isn't." It's not quite Flo and Jamie, but maybe it wouldn't be as annoying on the 75th viewing. They are ads, they're not going to magically turn United into the world's best airline all by themselves, but they've already got me thinking better thoughts about those friendly skies.

  6. Tim Dunn Diamond

    The correct verbiage is that United was the first airline to fire employees for not having a covid vaccination, has now ditched the program, and is even rehiring those that they previously dismissed.

    All of the sustainable aviation fuel United buys won't change that they have the least fuel efficient international fleet of any major global airline. Instead of buying 500 narrowbodies because they failed to begin reducing their dependence on 50 seat RJs more...

    The correct verbiage is that United was the first airline to fire employees for not having a covid vaccination, has now ditched the program, and is even rehiring those that they previously dismissed.

    All of the sustainable aviation fuel United buys won't change that they have the least fuel efficient international fleet of any major global airline. Instead of buying 500 narrowbodies because they failed to begin reducing their dependence on 50 seat RJs more than a decade ago like some of their competitors, United is now hoping to resurrect its 50 strong fleet of 20 plus year old grounded 777s with Pratt and Whitney engines when it should be ordered dozens of new generation widebodies.

    1. DenverUA Guest

      You are incorrect... they put them on uupaid leave... seriously, get yips facts straight ... some got fired... yes, But they were never going to go along with United policy. Yes, I'm employee of United and they did the right thing by requiring vaccination... I'm sorry you don't agree, but you don't work here... so piss off!

  7. John Guest

    Agree with lucky. These new ads are terrible. They should hire a new creative agency rather than waste money putting these on TV. It’s too disorganized, focusing on the narrator constantly changing the story halfway through. Why does that make someone like United? They need more direction from Kirby about exactly what United wants to stand for — or at a minimum make these ads more focused on a single coherent theme. The 60-second spot...

    Agree with lucky. These new ads are terrible. They should hire a new creative agency rather than waste money putting these on TV. It’s too disorganized, focusing on the narrator constantly changing the story halfway through. Why does that make someone like United? They need more direction from Kirby about exactly what United wants to stand for — or at a minimum make these ads more focused on a single coherent theme. The 60-second spot is a mash up of half-baked ideas. They should have picked one to focus one rather than having the narrator spit out every idea that they thought of in their brainstorming session.

  8. AM Guest

    They should have highlighted how no other airline has connection saver or video agents in app. Differentiate UA from the bunch. Campaign feels like a swing and a miss. I don’t like it.

  9. DCS Diamond

    The usual suspects who do not know the first thing about UA will pooh-pooh what the airlines has clearly committed to accomplishing, but for some of us who do actually patronize and fly with the airline, the changes are already quite remarkable -- they leave DL (and AA) in the dust when it comes to FF rewards, the one aspect of the airline that affects me most.

    This year I have taken only two trips,...

    The usual suspects who do not know the first thing about UA will pooh-pooh what the airlines has clearly committed to accomplishing, but for some of us who do actually patronize and fly with the airline, the changes are already quite remarkable -- they leave DL (and AA) in the dust when it comes to FF rewards, the one aspect of the airline that affects me most.

    This year I have taken only two trips, both with UA:
    1. EWR - SEA, (last month): requested Y to J PlusPoints upgrades each way and they both cleared.
    2. EWR - LHR (just returned on Saturday): requested Premier Economy Plus to Polaris Biz PlusPoints upgrades each way and they both cleared.

    Still have so many PlusPoints left I am sure I will need to start sponsoring upgrades to avoid losing them...

  10. Eskimo Guest

    They forgot about the action story where their henchmen beat up Dr. David Dao.

  11. Syd Guest

    Novel concept for corporate branding and culture - be the "good guys" and "force for good". Never been tried before & no way it's gonna backfire when things end up leaning too heavy on some side.

    United's been a good experience over my few flights in the past 12-15 months. I say them and any other company are better off delivering a good product. Do that and you won't need an ad campaign to highlight how "good" you are.

  12. David Guest

    No mention of inflight meal service. Good would be a huge improvement over awful.

  13. Sam Guest

    I think says something that they went with "Good" rather than "Great."

    None of the ads focus on catering I hope... would potentially face liability for false advertising in that case...

  14. stogieguy7 Diamond

    This feel-good based campaign will ultimately fail to achieve anything aside from making the marketing and C-suite people at UA "feel" virtuous. Far better to tout the improvements that United has made over the past several years. Their new planes (and retrofitted older ones), their exciting route expansions, other concrete things they've done to make you more want to fly them than the other guy. That's advertising.

  15. John Guest

    I don’t care for the message. When I think of an organization that’s a “force for good”, I think of MSF, Oxfam, Save the Children, etc. It’s uncomfortable when anyone celebrates their own virtue, but if you’re going to do it, best to fall back on a list of things that are actually “good” rather than a list of business decisions you made to improve your company and position it for the future.

  16. shoeguy Guest

    United has no choice but to expend resources on changing the narrative that it is still perceived as a subpar airline. While it has certainly made substantial improvements in its overall operation and is finally run by the most competent executive team the company has had in decades, it remains an airline of chronic delays, inefficiencies with overlapping markets, uneven service levels on board and on the ground, and has a long way to go.

  17. Sharon Guest

    Very impressed with the new United.

    They have a great leadership team and are really going places.

    Their EWR schedule for this summer is impressive, and they have doubled down on mainline aircraft from the airport. Denver is also growing which is great.

  18. Andrew Diamond

    "screens in every seatback"

    Because nothing says "good" like generating tons of toxic ewaste (along with the headphones), when 99% customers already have smartphones. How about incentivizing customers to use their devices by giving them free Internet with the WiFi you're planning to install? You can buy a few iPads for customers that don't have mobile devices to support equitable access.

    1. John Guest

      @Andrew

      1. Smart waste recycling is a thing now. Look it up.

      2. Not everyone can/wants to use their smartphone inflight.

      3. Quantify 'a few ipads'. Even 'a few' (whatever that is) multiplied by the hundreds of flights per day is a significant number of 'toxic ewaste', as you call it.

      4. If you're going down the path of heroic armchair environmental warrior, why only stop at 'toxic ewaste' like screens and headphones?? Why not...

      @Andrew

      1. Smart waste recycling is a thing now. Look it up.

      2. Not everyone can/wants to use their smartphone inflight.

      3. Quantify 'a few ipads'. Even 'a few' (whatever that is) multiplied by the hundreds of flights per day is a significant number of 'toxic ewaste', as you call it.

      4. If you're going down the path of heroic armchair environmental warrior, why only stop at 'toxic ewaste' like screens and headphones?? Why not just ban the all plastic mouldings and trims inside the plane? And the carpet. And tray table. And seat covers. Heck! Just ban United from flying planes, that'll solve all our 'toxic ewaste' problems!

    2. tipsyinmadras Gold

      Nope, absolutely do not want watch IFE on my iPhone nor do I want to lug around an iPad or laptop for a larger screen. United was 100% correct to reverse course on removing seatback IFE. I always use it, even if only to watch moving map.

    3. John Guest

      @tipsyinmadras

      Yup, absolutely agree with you. Why watch movies on a matchbox-sized phone screen when right in front of you there's a 4 - 5 times bigger screen that doesn't drain your battery? Happy to see other people here still using logic and common sense, instead of emotion and performative virtue-signalling.

    4. EK_engineer Guest

      Andrew, so the seatback screen in front of you is extremely 'toxic' while the phones/tablets/laptops you own are not?? Please explain your logic....

  19. mdande7 Gold

    I liked it but was rhapsody in blue dropped, that feels like a miss.

    1. Jan Guest

      Example #69 of United touting how great they are, once again

    2. Nate nate Guest

      correction -- United is touting how GOOD they are, not great.

  20. Greg Guest

    Spending opex on this instead of getting premium cabin food and beverage to above average standards is a waste.

    That said, it's a different, refreshingly un-modern campaign, although could do without the hyper-capitalization of inclusion and sustainability efforts. That should be subtle with the cast chosen, as it was in the first half of the main spot before they got overt and scripted, which was a turn off.

  21. reddargon Diamond

    Not sure how I feel about this overall, but bluetooth connectivity is a very welcome addition. I used to travel with big over-ear headphones but given how much space they take up I prefer to convenience of bluetooth earbuds, which generally don't have a wired connection option (and yea, I know there are adaptors you can buy but that's just another thing I have to carry with me).

  22. George Romey Guest

    More corporate spin. Flying in coach sucks no matter how woke propaganda an airline would love to throw out.

    1. TravelinWilly Diamond

      What is “woke” in these ads?

    2. PJ Guest

      What is woke in these ads? Bwahahahahahahahh! Have a nice flight!

  23. Endre Guest

    A lot of PR-Blabla. “Committing to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 100% by 2050“ — let’s see how well your 28-year plan will age

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

TravelinWilly Diamond

What is “woke” in these ads?

3
EK_engineer Guest

Andrew, so the seatback screen in front of you is extremely 'toxic' while the phones/tablets/laptops you own are not?? Please explain your logic....

2
John Guest

@Andrew 1. Smart waste recycling is a thing now. Look it up. 2. Not everyone can/wants to use their smartphone inflight. 3. Quantify 'a few ipads'. Even 'a few' (whatever that is) multiplied by the hundreds of flights per day is a significant number of 'toxic ewaste', as you call it. 4. If you're going down the path of heroic armchair environmental warrior, why only stop at 'toxic ewaste' like screens and headphones?? Why not just ban the all plastic mouldings and trims inside the plane? And the carpet. And tray table. And seat covers. Heck! Just ban United from flying planes, that'll solve all our 'toxic ewaste' problems!

2
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