For Southwest airlines “it’s on!” Here’s to ad copy with no strings attached.

December 2, 2009

I presume they are not talking about Mom…

“Bags fly free!” I’ve been extolling Southwest airline’s now-famous tag line for days; been tweeting it as well. I flew Southwest to Kansas City for Thanksgiving. Family of five. Four of them girls. That’s a lot of bags. And guess what: my bags flew free! I’m a big fan of the service (it seems ridiculous and unfair for airlines to charge for suitcases) and I’m an even bigger fan of the phrase. This is a piece of copy that says what it does, in no uncertain terms. There is a noun (bags) a verb (fly) and an adjective (free). Nothing more… for nothing more is needed. The line is as frugal and pragmatic as the airline it was written for.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this tag line is how blatantly obvious it is. Void of any double meaning or clever phrasing, “Bags fly free” is absolutely, positively blunt. It couldn’t be more un-clever if it tried, which, thankfully, it doesn’t. It’s anti-catchy.

As a copywriter, I have always fancied fancier taglines -pithy, arch, and ripe. My favorite tagline of all time is “Nothing runs like a Deere” for John Deere tractors. It’s a beautiful pun. It looks as great on a tee shirt as it does on a TV screen.

“Bags fly free” doesn’t work like that but it is a lightning strike never the less. Airlines are in trouble. The economy is broken. People are angry, worried and scared. Via one delightful promise, Southwest removes a great bit of that angst, positioning the airline above it all or, as their other (cleverer) brand line states, “free to move about the country.”

I can think of two other lines of end copy that work this way, one I like and one I don’t. The first is Geico’s ubiquitous mantra: “15 minutes could save you 15% on auto insurance.” Here is a mantra that also says what it does and does what it says. Geico surrounds the thought with all sorts of crazy, fun advertising (cavemen, geckos, etc.) but the ingenious “15 minutes” line remains at the core of every ad.

The second piece of copy is the one I don’t like, even though I believe it’s effective. “He went to Jared” has been bugging the crap out of me for several years now, especially around the holidays. Unlike the Southwest and Geico adverts, the ads attached to this copy are cloying, girly and annoying. But I do get the message. If I can’t afford Tiffany or Cartier I better get my ass to Jared.

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The Happy Soul Industry


3 Responses to “For Southwest airlines “it’s on!” Here’s to ad copy with no strings attached.”

  1. Richard R. Scherf said

    Hi there!

    It’s an adverb, not an adjective… (free, freely)

    My sixth grade teacher drilled this into my head 48 years ago.


  2. SRP said

    Even though you’re right “free” still feels like an adjective. Thanks for the lesson…and for reading.

  3. […] Postaer over at Gods of Advertising nicely reviews Southwest Airlines’ new “Bags fly free” […]

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