Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Photo: Untitled by M e l o d y. Fine shot! Thank you very much.

"...I'm trying to change my last name. I don't want to trade off my son's success." Mel Karmazin

Classic Mel taken from the Nancy Hass writing, Siriusly Speaking (brief. Interview), in the premiere issue of Conde Nast Portfolio. Congrats to Joanne Lipman, Thomas J. Wallace, David Carey and the Conde Nast pubs gang on their good looking new book (btw, the Advance interactive guys also rock!). Kudos to Nancy on the Mel get.

Been a long while since I last took a ride on Continental.

At Chicago's O'Hare early yesterday morning I went to the ticket counter and requested they print me a boarding pass for a later segment originating at another airport. The Continental counter agent said "You can do that online or at the airport of departure." I told him I was aware of that but asked if he would please print me a boarding pass for the segment. "I know you don't have to do this but I would really appreciate your help. Is there any room in First?" He printed the boarding pass and upgraded me, at no charge, in the process.

Congrats & cheers: Continental Airlines on a great job yesterday - I'm impressed. Every person on their team was polite and in a good mood. Put to the test by last night's weather which messed up their schedules into O'Hare (ATC issues not Continental's) - they were on it. Giving customers information and updates about what's happening is important. Doing it with the right attitude - and Continental did just that - is priceless. Bravo!

Which reminds me. Three lessons learned over decades of business travel.

Respect & good manners win!

Never underestimate the power of the gate agent, especially when they have "gate control" of the flight (beginning, generally, 30 minutes before scheduled departure).

Never underestimate the power of the counter supervisor or senior agent. The best way to get to them is never to ask for them directly. Make a request of the agent you draw. The majority of carriers have limits of authority in place. If your agent is not able to make something happen they usually "ask for help" rather than giving you a flat unconditional "no."

You don't ask, you don't get. Ask.

I have lost count of the number of times gate agents have upgraded me to first (or business class on international segments) at no charge. This happens without regard to my frequent flyer status with the airline - see Continental above. Be polite. Smile. Ask.

One night I excused myself from the table at a black tie dinner during the final minutes of the program and went - not to the men's room - to La Guardia for a ride home. Standing in black tie before the gate agent and holding a coach ticket I said "happy to be of service to you in the first cabin tonight." She smiled, laughed and the game was on. I did serve coffee in first and later the second coffee round in the main cabin. Big fun thanks to a very cool gate agent and a flight crew into the bit. Also got to do the bu-bye thing at the front of the cabin when my fellow passengers deplaned. And...another no charge upgrade to 2B.

The 800 number is your friend when the flight is canceled.

Do join the line at the counter and call the carrier's 800 number immediately. The "system" auto re-books customers when a flight is canceled. Your new best friend answering the 800 number can make things happen. Always ask what options you have including other carriers.

O&A Q&A: Lots of emails about the suspension. O&A made the national radar thanks to two bits: the Sex for Sam 3 stunt that put them off the air and a "homeless" guy's voiced rape fantasy.

What you say is less important than what people hear. The always on freak show at work.

Tony Schwartz taught us that lesson many years ago. Here's the back story on the famous TV spot that ran only once. Decades before Apple's 1984 there was a far more powerful image, there was Tony and Daisy.

When sales is preoccupied with "managing inventory" content does not become an issue. It's spots and dots ruling the day. When sales is preoccupied with generating dollars (and not making their numbers) content putting any revenue in jeopardy will not be tolerated. The dollars are always dear. Nothing new here. It was ever thus.

The O&A suspension has everything to do with the merger matter now before law makers and regulatory. Having the rape bit in the news cycle is tsuris the pay radio guys just don't need.

If anything, the late 90s were an ad spend anomaly that allowed, no, make that excused outrageous on-air behavior. Every manager was a genius, even idiots made their numbers, some even had record years. You had to have a detailed plan to get out of the way of the money, it was raining orders daily. Those were the days too many managers woke up on third thinking they had hit a triple. But senior management took their eye off the ball. Benign neglect. More from an earlier post here.

Bonus: When I grow up I want to work in advertising.