Thursday, March 08, 2007

On the Tasteless Garuda Billboard

When my relatives came to visit us in Yogya about two weeks ago, one of them saw the billboard above, towering over the intersection between Jl. Kaliurang and the northern ring road, and he said: "Wow, that's such a bad taste, unethical to say the least". The ad says,
Finally, safety, timeliness, comfort, of your flight become your first priority.
Yes, it's a Garuda ad, and the billboard first went up not long after Adam Air KI 574 went missing. Tasteless. Unethical. There is an illusion of safety with Garuda, and the airline doesn't shy away in exploiting it. Unspun may have commended Garuda's Emirsyah for doing a good job in the aftermath of the GA 200 accident, but someone should tell the president director about those ads his company been running since early this year.

Do people buy into it? I can say I did. I had to fly back and forth between Yogya and Jakarta in the past 4 months and since the KI 574 accident, I fly only with Garuda. The fact that Garuda could afford to run those ads without much of a backlash show that the illusion of safety is widely held.

Seeing the billboard, my other guest went as far as saying it's almost inevitable that the ad will backfire in one way or another. It's a jinx, "pamali", "takabur". Well, I was never into superstitions - I am more concerned with the conditions of the runway at Adisutjipto - short and bumpy.

I agree with Rizal that it is not the time to play the blame game, and I certainly wouldn't blame recent airline disasters on competition. What we need is indeed a thorough audit not only on airlines but on the whole aviation infrastructure (see Roby's comment here).


  1. After now, a level playing field has been created for all airlines in the country (in terms of safetiness). And, it's a good time for Aussie's and other Airlines to enter domestic line in Indonesia, at least for CGK-DPS line. People may choose them for safety reason, even more expensive.

    Or, thinking to buy life, disability, trauma cover and income protection? Consult your fin adviser.

  2. Beat me up for this comment... But, though I agree it's unethical to use the opportunity (especially the word "finally") over an accident, what they did might be legal. Furthermore, it may help increase safety awareness as well.

  3. well i guess they are eating their own words now, aren't they?

  4. Anymatters, the playing field is now level? That's definitely one way to look at it, although I've never thought about it that way...

    Bleu, no one is arguing that it's illegal. We see plenty of tasteless , unethical ads all the time. It's just bad, bad PR. However I still can't see how the ad can increase safety awareness.

    Miund, they have now taken down the ad/painted over it.

  5. Sorry, I've changed my mind. The level playing field becomes a dirty playing field. I'm now thinking of a consipracy theory with sabotage for the purpose of lowering Garuda and Adam Air's offer. In airlines industry, the lower the safetiness, the lower the company value.

  6. Hmm, I take different angle on this topic. Click here

  7. We do not discuss accidents like the ones with AdamAir and Garuda with jokes or "humour", whish would be tasteless also.
    Suppose we or people dear to us were the victim.......
    I landed on the landing strip just a few days before that, in a Garuda airplane.

  8. Ujang,
    I recently saw an ad for Avanza: "Banjir kok naik sedan". Another one for a sports drink (forgot which brand) "Bebas bahan pengawet" -- right after a controversy on the use of preservatives in sports drinks. Another pointed out the natural ingredients in their mosquito spray after Hit was, literally, hit because of its use of banned substances.

    What these advertisers do -- and which Garuda did -- is to emphasize a feature of their commodities that were often trumped by other features (usually price). So, I am a bit curious why you think Garuda is particularly tasteless. (On the other hand, you might think that all of the other ads were equally tasteless...)

    If it's about the "illusion" it offered, every single one of these advertisers offered similar illusions. Avanzas do break down in terrible floods; soft drinks with no preservatives have other things that are bad for you; and those mosquito sprays are still poisonous despite their "natural ingredients".

    Or is it because the Adam air accident killed so many people? Artificial ingredients in drinks and mosquito sprays with banned substances kill -- worse, they kill slowly and, hence, will probably cause more casualties in the long run.

    Or is it because it feeds on people's fear? The other ads did so -- and by doing so, point out other important features of a product other than prices.

    So, I agree with bleu: The Garuda ad did raise people's awareness of an important feature of air travel other than price -- and that is a good thing, especially if it encourages consumers to demand it from airlines through the government. That Garuda has to eat its own words in the end is another matter.

  9. Arya, I don't think the ad has anything to do with increasing safety awareness. At that time our safety awareness has already been increased by the news coverage of the KI 574 accident. To me what the ad did raise was an awareness of how distasteful competition sometimes can be and how gullible many consumers are.

    Again, there's nothing really wrong with that. And as we repeatedly say in the Cafe, there's no accounting for taste.

  10. what is wrong with that? It's marketing opportunity.