AirTran Airways

In the fall of 2009, AirTran Airways was looking to launch an aggressive new multimedia online initiative — dubbed Inside AirTran — to communicate with its 8,500 employees, who are spread out across the country. 

AirTran already had a daily e-mail blast, but knew that video was a much more effective means of getting message penetration. They were on the hunt for a production company that could not only make complex ideas simple and digestible, but package them in visually compelling, Web-ready, documentary-style videos. 

Common Machine quickly outpaced the other production companies AirTran was trying out and we’ve been the airline’s exclusive production company ever since. 

We’ve so far produced more than 30 videos for Inside AirTran. We’ve shot station visits in Boston, executive dunk-tank fund-raisers in Orlando, crew base openings in Milwaukee, and quick turns in Tampa. We’ve braved the paint bays in Miami to film the special livery paint jobs of the Indianpolis Colts, Orlando Magic, Atlanta Falcons, and Baltimore Ravens planes; we’ve sweated buckets on the tarmac in Orlando to document the Ramp Relay Championships, gotten wet for flight attendant life-raft training and given away bikes to underprivileged kids in Orlando. We even scored a minor YouTube hit (100K views and counting) with a viral video we made for AirTran when then rival (and now new owner) Southwest Airlines took a shot at them in a national commercial spot. (See the “Skip the Stampede” entry for the whole story.) 

Since launching the employee-targeted site, AirTran has accumulated more than 250,000 page views and the site has become the go-to resource for crew members around the country. Nearly half of the airline’s employees have signed up for the site’s RSS feed as have many journalists that cover the company.



In the spring of 2010, we got a call from AirTran Airways’ Director of PR Christopher White asking if we’d seen the commercial spot Southwest Airlines was airing during the NCAAs, showing a bunch of their crazy ramp workers running up and flashing an AirTran plane. We had indeed. Apparently, AirTran crew members were hoping the company wouldn’t take Southwest’s crack lying down and there was much discussion from the ramp to the halls of HQ.

AirTran decided that while it wasn’t interested in buying expensive national airtime, it was interested in having some good-natured fun with its competitor and satisfying the crew members call for retaliation. White and Common Machine executive producer Brett O’Bourke discussed some ideas and agreed the target was pretty obvious: Southwest’s much-maligned cattle call boarding procedure.

On Thursday morning, on a flight out to Las Vegas (for a little tourney gambling), O’Bourke wrote the script and storyboards for the spot. On Friday, White secured the actors — the cows would be played by volunteer crew members and the talent came from local Atlanta improv group Dad’s Garage — while CM intern Christine Sylvain tracked down the cow costumes. 

On Sunday, O’Bourke and his crew — cameraman and Steadicam operator Richard Patterson and editor Jorge Rubiera — flew into Atlanta. The shoot went down on Monday, editing on Tuesday with some tweaks on Wednesday, approval from AirTran brass on Thursday and the video hit the Internet Friday morning.

Within the first three days online the video racked up more than 45,000 views, was featured on television newscasts in more than 50 markets across the U.S. and received coverage in print and online publications, including USA Today, ABC, CBSBloomberg, the AJC, Dallas Morning News, Denver Post, and a ton of others.

Current views are over 145K and Cramer-Krasselt, AirTran’s PR agency, estimated advertising value of approximately $500K. Skip the Stampede was named a PCC Silver Trumpet Award winner in the marketing category and received a Gold Bulldog Award for Best Use of the Internet (Consumer).