WestJet Knows Just How You Feel When Flying Rival Airlines

The simplest metaphor for bad customer service

A whole lot of cows hoof it through an airport in Rethink's latest commercial for Canadian airline WestJet. 

The bovine bunch waits on long lines while rival airlines' ambivalent attendants provide disinterested service. They gaze forlornly at video screens as delays and cancellations mount. They watch luggage—not cowhide, we hope!—revolve on baggage carousels.

They appear utterly un-mooved by the herd mentality. 

Meanwhile, at the WestJet counter, smiling employees attend to human passengers and everyone seems in an upbeat frame of mind.

"An airline should treat people like people," we're told at the end, as WestJet touts its commitment to fly on time and never overbook.

"I think we've all felt that out-of-control, herded mentality when traveling, and all you have to do is look at some comments about the other players in the industry about being 'treated like cattle' to see the insight rings true," says Rethink partner and creative director Mike Dubrick. "Demonstrating the insight in this way felt unique, and really landed a strong point of view for the brand."

Mark Zibert, best-known for his SickKids Foundation PSAs, directs with admirable restraint. These aren't kooky cartoon-y cows cutting up for the cameras, or manipulated in post to, you know, milk the situation dry. Rather, it's a normal herd, and their disconcerting presence in an airport is easily strange enough to carry the day. (Similarly, Zibert's recent Ikea spot featuring the kaiju-style "Stuff Monster" offered a memorable visual metaphor without going ludicrously overboard.) 

The cows are mostly CGI, but some real ones were used for close-ups, with strict safety measures enforced, per this behind-the-scenes video:

"Our No. 1 priority during the shoot was the welfare of the animals involved," Dubrick says. "We used as few as possible—10. We shot in an abandoned airport in Ciudad Real, Spain, using local cows. There was an animal handler on set to ensure that the cows were always cared for." 

This latest notable WestJet campaign follows a half-decade of acclaimed holiday spots and other innovative efforts, such as a nightlight for kids that projects the path of their parents' flight on the ceiling. 

CREDITS

Title: We Treat People Like People
Client: WestJet
Chief Commercial Officer: Arved von zur Muehlen
Vice President, Marketing Communications: Richard Bartrem
Director, Marketing Communications: Rob Daintree

Chief Creative Officer: Aaron Starkman and Christina Yu
Art Director: Loretta Lau
Writer: Mike Dubrick, Dhaval Bhatt
Head of Strategy: Sean McDonald
Strategist: Hannah Newport 

Head of Broadcast Production, Rethink Toronto: Anna Tricinci
Broadcast Producer: Clair Galea

Production Company: Scouts Honour
Director/DOP: Mark Zibert
AD/DOP: Eric Kaskens
EP/Producers: Simon Dragland  and Rita Popielak

Service Production Company: Falca 
Managing Partner/EP: Jeronimo Pellicer Hummelsheim
Line Producer: Marc Gallen

Post-Production House: Saints Editorial
Editor: Ross Birchall
Assistant Editor: Paula Hicks and Kerstin Juby
Executive Producers: Michelle Lee

VFX House: The Vanity
Executive Producer: Stephanie Pennington
Colour: Andrew Exworth
Producer: Kayla Baxter
Lead VFX Artist: Sean Cochrane
VFX Artists: Naveen Srivastava, Kaelem Cahill, Michael Medeiros, Andres Farlow, Noah Matikainen
CG: Shed Inc

Music House: Vapor
Executive Producer: Lindsey Bates
Music Producer: Ted Rosnick
Sound Engineer:  Ryan Chalmers
Music Rights Clearance: Francois Lachance

Account Director: Amanda Dornan
Account Manager: Sara Lemmermeyer and Malcolm D'Souza

Profile picture for user David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.

Museletter

Get Inspired

Sign up for the daily Museletter for the latest ad campaigns and the stories behind them.