Russia might not be noted for the quality of its airlines, but one of them does at least have an ambition to produce quality entertainment.
A series of films for S7 Airlines (also known as PJSC Siberia Airlines) aims to explain Planet Earth for extra-terrestrials. ‘Visit Earth’ claims to be the “first-ever travel show for aliens and the first-ever series to be beamed into outer space”.
Originally produced in Russian last year, the six 12-minute episodes are now also running in English, with two featuring Japanese subtitles. They offer a quite different perspective on some key areas of interest for earthlings, including nature (below), love, art, sport, food and parties, covering Russia, Iceland, Italy, Thailand and Japan.
Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam led the development of the campaign, with Tokyo-based Mackenzie Sheppard directing it. The original edition of the series has so far drawn around 24 million views.
While the films appear on S7’s YouTube channel, the airline avoided overt branding in the content. Sheppard, a Canadian who grew up in Japan, said the company had wanted to do something “that hasn’t been done before”, with a simple brief of “make a funny show in these places”.
“They had a hunger to do something bigger,” Sheppard said. He said he hoped the creative freedom S7 allowed would become more widespread among clients. “The most important thing is having the brand fully behind the creative,” he said. “I only got one comment [while working on the series] and that was ‘make it weirder’. There was a complete handover of trust and this makes everything better.”
That can sometimes result in work that is gratifying for creatives but less so for audiences, but the high level of viewer engagement suggests that the campaign managed to strike the right balance.
Asked how the 12-minute length of the episodes was determined, Sheppard said he saw around 10 minutes as the optimum length for storytelling. He said a lot of mainstream entertainment content ended up being bloated in order to accommodate commercial breaks and could be boiled down.
“People follow a format without realising why they’re doing it,” he said. “It’s the same with 15- or 20-second ads. Not to disrespect them but if you’re putting $500,000 to $1 million into a 15-second ad, you could make something much bigger and spread it further. The workload might be bigger, but everyone should ask themselves, 'why do we make things the length that we do?'.”
Campaign’s view: The films undeniably show a much greater sense of originality and humour than we are used to seeing in work by airlines, who usually set out to please everyone. To be sure, not everyone will enjoy this campaign or even have the patience to watch a full episode, but those who do are likely to remember it. The question is whether they will also remember the S7 brand, or decide to fly it.