Qantas pulls on heart strings with ‘Fly Away’ ad: Five experts share why it works

Qantas ad Fly Away

Source: YouTube

Australian advertising experts have praised a new Qantas ad that has many viewers longing to travel again, saying its message of hope is “exactly what we need right now”. 

The airline’s ad, which promotes its ‘Be Rewarded’ campaign of discounts and incentives to vaccinated customers, features scenes of people travelling to reunite with loved ones once more Australians are vaccinated, set to the evocative soundtrack of ‘Fly Away’ by Tones and I. 

The short commercial was met with widespread praise on social media on Monday, with journalists, advertisers and even Australia’s former deputy chief health officer Dr Nick Coatsworth giving the ad a round of applause. 

So what makes the ad work? SmartCompany asked a roundtable of advertising and PR experts to weigh in. 

Ben Birchall, director of brand voice at SouthSouthWest (@benbirchall)

It’s an interesting time when even the most jingoistic of brands can seem positively progressive compared to the government of the day. But the latest Qantas ad squarely positions them as visionaries, predicting a future that most of us can’t even imagine.

I mean, they would. Their business depends on it. 
But the other thing the ad shows is how powerful positivity can be. Don’t show us people struggling for breath and expect that to move us. Show us the burly farmer looking at a photo of his daughter while Tones And I sings and we’re all puddles. We’ll do anything you say. We’ll even stop wondering exactly what he’s farming to afford that Business Class seat. But great brand communication can do that. Make us forget what the ad is selling, and instead think about what it stands for.

Bethanie Blanchard, head of strategy at Carat Melbourne ​​(@beth_blanchard)

This campaign is an example of the power of acts plus ads.

Qantas has always been best in class at using their advertising to sell the emotional appeal of the product — connection, belonging — over the functional one. This one elevates an activity we’re all longing for, to travel again, into an act of solidarity and pride.

Part of the reason it makes us so emotional is that it has true empathy at its core, representing small moments of sadness or tension we’ve all experienced over the last 18 months: milestones delayed, people and events missed, passports expired signifying freedom lost. But more importantly, it goes further than just the ad and is backed by authentic and meaningful acts: points and discount incentives for those who do the right thing and get fully vaccinated.

These campaigns are deeply important in the moment we’re in as a nation through the vaccine rollout. We saw research during the early days of COVID that showed there was greater faith globally in companies and brands to respond to the crisis effectively than there was in governments. Companies repurposed their warehouses and factories to produce masks, hand sanitiser and medical equipment.

We’re seeing similar leadership through vaccine comms now too: initially, there was lots of commentary about what the ‘right’ government ad strategy should be. But the truth is that it’s these nudges by as many brands, publishers and organisations as possible, with all their differing angles and audiences that will make an impact on vaccine uptake

Dan Monheit, co-founder at Hardhat agency (@DanMonheit)

It’s timely, it’s beautiful, it’s emotive and it’s exactly what we all need right now.

This spot brings hope and a reminder of just what it is we’re trying to get back to.

Many studies have confirmed that the majority of our travel related happiness occurs in the planning and anticipation stage of a trip (up to 50%, compared to 35% when we return and just 15% on the trip itself). Qantas has dialed our collective anticipation up to a 12.

From an initial pull at the heart strings, they make it very clear to the head what we need to do next: go and get vaccinated.

Kristen Zotti, director of Zotts & Co (@Kristenzotti)

In a time dominated by depressing headlines, Qantas is selling hope and we are more than ready to buy. This campaign gives us permission to dream that one day soon, we will be able to see light at the end of the tunnel and return to some kind of normal.

It’s all the things we don’t let ourselves think about — family reunions, weddings, holidays. And when half the country are in isolation and struggling to cope, it gives us a glimpse of the things we previously took for granted. It shows human connection in the most simple, but beautiful way.

Qantas nails the power of emotional storytelling to tug on our heartstrings, framing vaccination as a simple solution to make it all happen. The message is going viral for all the right reasons and yep, I’m still crying.

Constantine Frantzeskos, founder and CEO of Penso (@ConFrantzeskos)

Airlines have been hit harder than any industry, because not only did their revenues dry out, but then they also had to refund the flights that were happening over the next 350 days, which meant that they got seriously, seriously smashed. And I think Alan Joyce has, on a global scale, been one of the serious visionaries and probably has handled COVID better than any other CEO I can think of. He has done an extraordinarily great job, because he was decisive. He struck hard, making changes and reforms and he anticipated what was happening, and furthermore, he’s played a very active advocacy role. 

I think it needs to be said in that context, because I don’t look at this as just Qantas doing an ad. I look at this as Qantas [being] very decisive under the leadership of Alan Joyce and this is a manifestation of that.

I think the brief and the strategy behind it is clearly: guys, we can’t live like this, lockdowns are a ridiculously stupid solution so to speak, and the idea of COVID-zero is fucking crazy. So therefore, the reality is, let’s get vaccinated and let’s get planes moving and let’s get people doing whatever they want to do, whether it be business, whether it be personal. Whatever the circumstances, it doesn’t matter, you don’t need an excuse to get on a plane. 

And that’s ultimately what this says. It says, let’s be free. And I think that, in itself, as a kind of advocacy message is a very strong message.

The second advocacy message that’s weaved into it is the idea of vaccination is the way out. It’s really, really strong political advocacy … and then it weaves in this beautiful, emotional message. I think it speaks to everyone because ultimately each one of us wants to travel and wants to be free. We don’t even need a reason; we were born free as humans.

The other thing is, and it’s not a criticism of course, but I can’t remember any of Qantas’ other ads over the last five years or so; they have been tremendously forgettable. But this is really energetic and really quite uplifting. It’s also hopeful and no one else is peddling hope right now.


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critical thinker
critical thinker
9 months ago

Seriously how have we arrived at a point in Australian society where something as discriminatory and nazi-esque as this is ok? This is just sickening. Shouldn’t they also show the unvaccinnated being herded into allowed zones watching the vaccinated fly away? What a joke, anyone that thinks this is ok should be ashamed of themselves and you know it. You can still spread covid with the jab and you can still get sick, stop pretending this is normal and everyone agrees with it all, the truth is that no-one with half a brain is being heard and everything in australia is now more censored than china. Take five minutes out of your day to look at the actual science and you’ll find this is all insanity. But sure let’s all praise Qantas for being terrible enough to actually milk it.

9 months ago

It’s insane to think that your life and the life of your loved ones is extended, quality improved and happier thanks to modern societies uptake of vaccinations for preventable disease. Why would you now choose this vaccine as your hill to die on? This disease is literally tearing the world apart and killing 1-2% of those it infects. Get the bloody jab and get over yourself.

dumb professional
dumb professional
9 months ago

I agree with critical thinker. They call it the ‘placebo effect’ – let’s pretend it’s all behind us after we get the jab (have a look at the UK & America – especially the different states in America with different covid measures). Funny how the virus is still spreading but no-one is measuring the cases anymore….. and funnily enough, the deaths are not being publicized like the black plague!!

Reality bites
Reality bites
9 months ago

So many words by these ad professionals, yet so little substance. Here’s a different interpretation: the ad is disconnected from reality. Casual workforce and insecure jobs because of COVID, farmers struggling with everything, and recurring extended lockdowns. Nobody has the luxury to respond to the whimps of their preteen kids to just go to Disneyland, to just visit their presumably post-teen overseas. Heck even if they had the $’000 surplus cash to go, many can’t even legally go beyond 5kms , yet alone 5000km, to the the most expensive theme park or destinations!

Delusional, disconnected and above all else, makes me angry how much the Commonwealth has failed Australians.

Last edited 9 months ago by Reality bites
9 months ago

I think this ad is disconnected from reality.

If you’re inside Australian borders, and don’t need to fork out 10K to get home, sure it feels good and hopeful. 

But as an Australian copywriter living overseas, the tone here is absolute desperation. Flight caps. Quarantine. No fresh air. No exemptions. Family members dying without the chance to say goodbye.

If anything, I hope this encourages everyone to get vaccinated, so Australians outside of the country can see their loved ones as easily as everyone in this ad did. 

9 months ago

A cute ad, but waaaay out of touch with reality.

I agree with critical thinker, dumb professional and reality bites comments.

It’s utter madness, medical tyranny. More chance of getting hit by lightning than dieing of covid for 95÷ of people.

It’s the Carrot vs the usual stick. Glad Qantas has money to waste on this ideological crap. Oh thats right, they got given millions in government support.
Unlike the rest of us.

So no, I won’t be flying personally, nor most Australians I would guess.

Qantas will still get the corporate dollars, good luck to them. So this ad is way out of touch and a bit mean.

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