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JetBlue Roundtable
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Linda Scott: We’re here today with the two presidents of JWT North America, Rosemarie Ryan and Ty Montague. I have asked them to meet to discuss their creative philosophy and practices, with particular emphasis on the JetBlue business and the influence of new media, as well as the arts. I usually begin roundtables by asking everyone to introduce themselves and to give not only their role in the organization, but to tell a bit about their relationship to the topic at hand, in this case the JetBlue account.

Rosemarie Ryan: I’m Rosemarie Ryan, President of JWT North America. Ty and I pitched the JetBlue business almost two and a half years ago. It was really one of the first accounts we pitched together as a team, so it’s a very important and prestigious piece of business for us.

Ty Montague: I agree with that. I’m Ty Montague, Co-President and Chief Creative Officer at JWT North America.

Kristina Lenz: I’m Kristina Lenz, Business Director on JetBlue. I have worked on the business since the JetBlue account came in the door, which will be three years in January.

LS: Maybe we should start by talking about the origins of the concept?

TM: Sure. I’ll say a little bit about JetBlue first. They are a company with a mission to bring humanity back to air travel. Long before they had come into contact with us, they had built a brand based on an experience, really creating an experience on the airplanes and with the people that you interacted with throughout the system that was just better.

The brand had been built without a lot of advertising. Word-of-mouth about the experience was the real driver; it’s why JetBlue got famous, they got tons of press and there was a whole lot of excitement about the brand.

RR: There were several books and many articles written about it. All full of quotes about how the founder hated advertising.

[Laughter.]

TM: The JetBlue experience was a little hard to characterize in advertising terms, because “humanity” in this case didn’t mean informality or comedies. There are some airlines, like Southwest, that had a very distinctive experience, but it was much looser. They had party seating, people cracked jokes, and it was a very forcefully party-like atmosphere on the planes. That’s not the JetBlue experience at all. The JetBlue experience is leather seats, a TV at every seat, brand new planes and friendly but very professional staff.

RR: Very communal.

TM: Yes, it’s very communal. And everything exists for a reason. That’s a fundamental part of their brand and of their business. At JetBlue, you’re asked to clean up your own area as the flight is coming to an end. As a customer, they are asking you to clean up your own stuff. The crew gets involved in cleaning up, as well as the passengers. The reason is that it allows them to turn the planes faster, the turn times are lower, which means they can keep the fares down. So it really is a participatory experience. You are not just a customer; you are a participant in the JetBlue experience.

RR: People raved about this experience. Not only were they getting great value, but when they were actually on the planes, they liked the values of the crew. People liked the fairness, one class for all, and the fact that the crew joined in and helped clean up. So the word of mouth was critical, and it was so communal that passengers felt the success of the airline had been built on their good will. People truly believed they had helped build JetBlue and turn it into what it is today. So we consciously did not want the advertising people to take it out of the hands of the people who helped build it. We wanted them to participate in the advertising in the same way that they participated in building the airline.

KL: There is a really great story where the founder, David Neeleman, would ride all the planes, and he would get up and make an announcement: “If you...


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