In 1967 legendary adman and designer George Lois conceived a hip new ad campaign for Braniff International Airways, in a style that was remarkably similar to his undying Esquire covers from around the same time. (If you’re at all interested in design, you’ve definitely seen a bunch of those covers, just Google it.)
In two TV spots, Andy Warhol tries to convince a not-buying-it Sonny Liston, then the world heavyweight champ, as to the artistic validity of his Campbell’s soup cans, and Yankee hurler Whitey Ford quizzes Salvador Dalí about the differences between the screwball and the knuckleball.
Lois, in his egotistical and yet charmingly frank (“out-bullshit” etc.) style, explains on his website what he was getting at with the Braniff ads. He mentions a bunch of other pairings that were presumably filmed, but, well, they ain’t on YouTube, anyway.
WHEN YOU GOT IT—FLAUNT IT!
A JUXTAPOSITION OF CELEBRITY ODD COUPLES, PORTRAYED AS LOVABLE SPOTLIGHT HUSTLERS, TRYING TO OUT-BULLSHIT EACH OTHER AS THEY FLY BRANIFF.
In 1967, When you got it—flaunt it! became an American colloquialism as well as a standard entry in the anthologies of American sayings, almost instantly. It was my slogan for Braniff—a zany, outrageous campaign that featured a smorgasbord of the world’s oddest couples, exchanging the screwiest and most sophisticated chatter heard on television. Our juxtaposition of unlikely couples was unprecedented, creating the perception that when you flew Braniff International, you never knew who might be in the seat next to you. Pop guru Andy Warhol tried (but failed) to engage the sullen heavyweight champ Sonny Liston…Salvador Dali (Wen yo godet—flawndet!) talked baseball with Whitey Ford…black baseball legend Satchel Paige talked about youth and fame with neophyte Dean Martin Jr….poet Marianne Moore discussed writing with crime novelist Mickey Spillane…Rex Reed dueled with Mickey Rooney…British comedienne Hermione Gingold trumped film legend George Raft at his own game, whilst inundating him with pretentious palaver.
Sounds wacky on the face of it, but as we eavesdrop on these odd couples trying to outflaunt each other, we hear everything that has to be said about Braniff. We also imply that you might bump into a celebrity or two on a Braniff flight. (Yet another spot was produced with a Braniff stewardess welcoming an eclectic procession of business travelers: Joe Namath, Emilio Pucci, the Italian fashion designer to the Jet Set, thespians Gina Lollobrigida, Tab Hunter and Sandra Locke, jockey Diane Crump and the Rock group Vanilla Fudge.) They are not idealized celebrities—they are famous people who are portrayed as lovable extroverts, combined to radiate a surreal kind of believability. A commercial has little credibility if we think its spokespersons are hustling a buck. Celebrities must not look like mercenaries. I make them believable by showing them in a human way, downplaying their celebrity.