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).