The trend of the safety videos in form of lengthy promos has been instigated by Air New Zealand. Other airlines followed suit, mostly playing the humour card. Middle East Airlines, via its advertising agency Horizon FCB, which has been handling their account since 2007, has followed suit with a lengthy video doubling as a touristic showcase of the post-card sites Lebanon has to offer its visitors in a film directed by Philippe Aractingi of the Bosta movie fame.
When asked how MEA eventually decided to ride the bandwagon and how that campaign is different from those other airlines put out, Siham Saad, Associate Creative Director, Horizon FCB replied, "By default, airlines’ safety instructions are a pretty stressful subject for the passengers. In order to diminish this stress and communicate the needed message in an entertaining and positive way, airlines started this trend of creating out of the box safety instruction videos. However, each airline chose its own direction in order to create a video that is relevant to its brand identity or to its country of origin."
Whereas the Internet was filled with unsubstantiated rumours about the film being inspired or outright copied, Saad saw it differently when compared to other airlines. She explained: "For instance, Virgin America’s safety video was all about music and dancing, which is in line with its brand identity. As for Air New Zealand, it chose to highlight its country of origin where The Hobbit trilogy was filmed. Qatar Airways, known to be the main sponsor of FC Barcelona football team, used the latter in its safety video, and the video of Air France, was all about fashion and elegance, directly related to the brand’s corporate identity."
Comparatively, Saad says that "Safety instructions are universal and feeling a similarity between these kinds of videos at this level is totally normal. However, what differentiates MEA’s direction was the idea of featuring Lebanon at its best. With all the negativity all over the media and social media channels, who could be a better advocate than our national MEA carrier to transmit the positivity of our country and promote its tourism!"
Mohamad El-Hout, chairman of MEA, who has been manning the helm since 1998 gave the advertising agency the initiative to innovate, being open to new ideas and always aiming to improve the airline in terms of services, fleet, image, and position on par with the international industry’s standards.
Safety belts featured the cedars, turning off electronic devices was linked to the Jeita Grotto, the Bequa'a Valley found its way to the oxygen mask section, safety jackets were linked to the Pigeon's Grotto in Beirut, and only the placing of the baggage in the overhead compartment was shot inside the plane albeit with a lot of choreographed action.
However, whereas safety videos of this kind are now a fad, even Air New Zealand which excels at them creatively has been reprimanded that their videos is steering clear of the original informative purpose. Horizon FCB sees it differently saying that taxiing is known to be the period between the beginning of plane’s movement and its takeoff. It is indeed the most stressful phase for passengers and happens to be the time for safety instructions. "As long as the video is not longer than the plane’s taxiing phase, all is under control! Moreover, it is actually not about the length of the video, but about its quality and the mood it’s transmitting. If the video manages to decrease the stress of this phase and succeeds in entertaining the passengers while they can actually do no other thing – especially that all electronic devices are turned off during this time – then the video is a success!," Saad asserted.
Not only is MEA proud of its video, but Horizon FCB assures that this is part of a bigger campaign that is to come later. However, when asked about the budget and the wobbly production value, which let the film down, the agency was mum and gave no reply.