Staring out the window with wonder.

Another masterclass from Uncommon.

My grandfather was born in 1915 and lived to 97. It’s fair to say he saw more change in his lifetime than any other human in world history. Ever curious, he would tinker with, pull apart, break and repair anything and everything he could fit into his shed. Like deconstructing magic to figure out it wasn’t so. But there was one thing that never lost its wonder with Pa.


He was as fascinated with being in the sky the umpteenth time as he was the first. Whether the flight was 45 minutes or 7 hours, he’d sit there staring out the window marvelling at how in hell he was actually sitting in a giant tube in the sky rocketing across the planet. (Or maybe it’s just because he could never fit a 747 into his shed.) A sense of genuine wonder that’s perhaps, over time, been lost on us all and instead replaced by the dreary frustrations of taking our belts and shoes off, being poked and prodded and scanned, sitting around endlessly waiting for delayed and cancelled flights, and eating food that I’m not even sure my kelpie would go near despite last night eating a wooden door stop.

Which brings me to the latest British Airways campaign via Uncommon.

An incredible exercise in simplicity, craft, and restraint. It’s one of the rare examples of advertising that completely stopped me dead in my tracks.

Beyond just being a beautifully executed piece of work, it brought up a lot of genuine emotion for me. I fly a reasonable amount, for work and for family. My wife is Canadian, so by birth so are our two girls, and we’ve done that 17-20+ hour trek many times. Even when they were babies and toddlers. (My wife’s even done it solo with babies and toddlers like an absolute beast.) And as arduous and soul crushing as those expeditions are, once we’re in the sky, I sometimes think of my grandfather’s marvellous wonder at what we’re actually doing right now. (Other than being ‘that family’ on the plane whose kid is rolling around the floor screaming because they spilt their orange juice on Elmo.)


There’s a lovely synergy between the sense of wonder and possibility and curiosity in these ads as there is in the approach to making them. A beautiful naivety and ignorance, in the best way possible.

Every day now in this job, on every brief we receive, creatives with a wealth of experience, success, awards, talent, and craft are lectured on how to make an ad. We’re told by media people posing as anthropologists that the human attention span has shrunk so we must bombard people with as many pieces of information in as few seconds as possible. We’re told by digital gurus that everything must have a logo at the beginning, use warm colours, be tightly framed, and follow these trends. We’re told by marketers who’ve been around for 5 minutes with a book of nothing that ‘traditional advertising’ doesn’t work anymore and the only thing that does is the stuff people install ad blockers to get away from. An army of people who’ve never made an ad and don’t have the ability to action their own advice giving it to those who actually have and can.

Sometimes a bit of naivety and ignorance is a good thing. Because we’re not approaching what we do with clear eyes anymore. With wonder, with curiosity, with possibility. Every brief is an opportunity to do something new and fresh and exciting. But only if you stop labouring it with deadweights and treat it as such.

Which is why I love this campaign so much. It feels like everyone involved looked at it in the same way the people do upon the world below from their seat 23A window. With a sense of awe and wonder. There’s a lot to learn here.

The strategy behind this campaign is fucking exceptional. Much like the advertising business itself, we’re all focusing on the wrong things. Post-911, and now post-COVID, the ‘flying experience’ has gotten horrific. The wait times, the prices, the delays and cancellations, the intrusive security process, the lost luggage, the (understandably) exhausted staff, the shit food - but you know what, none of it is important if you stop to think about what we’re actually privileged enough to be doing in between it all.


The focus shouldn’t be on how many times Sharon yelled at you to take your shoes off, or how your clothes ended up in another hemisphere, or how your chicken cacciatore looked like it was art directed by Ridley Scott - the magic all happens in the sky if you take a moment to look out the window. Just focus on that bit.

This might be my favourite campaign of the year so far. Well done Uncommon and British Airways.

Not just for the work itself, but for proving what is possible when you clear out all the unnecessarily mandated distractions plaguing this business and approach what we do with open eyes.

Because we could all do with less trend reporting, template mandating, and market researching, and a bit more staring out the window and wondering.

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