advertising and other stuff. no, really.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The TSA pat down mess: safety concern or marketing SNAFU?

Aka, all you need is glove. Let me start off by saying I don’t want to die on a plane because someone had plans to meet their maker and take a few infidels with them. If you’re in the advertising business though, you can’t avoid air travel, and so, getting felt up is preferable to being blown up. Watching the airport security mess unfold however, it comes off less like an intelligent response to a legitimate threat than it does a marketing 101 blunder:

They just didn’t sell it well enough to the American people.

Like any political campaign, and as Obama found out once in office, if you don’t define yourself with the public, the opposition will do it for you. The pre-pat down 80% of the American flying public that Transportation Security Administration claims approve of the scanners is looking a little suspect now.

8-year olds getting strip-searched aren’t helping the cause.

I’m not saying the scanners are completely safe – I just don’t know – what I am saying is the *occasional* traveler would probably be no worse for wear when compared to the typical dentist visit where you might need x-rays. But it’s not really the x-rays, is it.

This is where it feels like (ouch) we’ve taken a step backwards with pat downs. After 9/11, Dubya told everyone to go shopping because otherwise, the terrorists would win. The subsequent policies put in place focused on intelligence gathering there to make us safe here. Which meant the Patriot Act, warrentless wiretaps, Club Gitmo and waterboarding.

None of it hit home until now though. Think of groping as the next logical step in the Global War on Terror, no? Turn your head and smile all you Great Americans – we’ve got Commies to find.

A few ad folk have told me look, what’s the problem, just go through the damn things. It’s less an issue of physical safety or pride for them and more about the cost of being an American citizen. Fair enough, except, when you hear talk from TSA officials dismissing out of hand those concerns over exposure to the scanners, leaked images online, or the gentle, caring ways in which officers carry out their inspections, you feel like big tobacco is telling you cigarettes are safe.

That veterans are searched and politicians aren’t, housewives and cancer patients embarrassed is hard to dismiss as isolated incidents. I can’t wit for cellphone pics of scanner images to start appearing. Agree or disagree with his conspiracy theories, but former governor and Navy SEAL Jesse Ventura has a legit point when he says he’s tired of having to prove he’s not guilty of something. Because of this, he will no longer fly commercial airlines.

What we’ll likely have this holiday season is more problems with huge lines as some of that *20%* will be out to prove a point with some form of civil disobedience. Reading this 2009 account from a former police officer and you see how much of TSA policies may actually be undermining the overall goal of safety.

From an advertising point of view though, the TSA blew it.

Rather than take their case to the public and explain the procedures and terrorist attacks they’ve likely avoided, they opted instead for an approach that some ad agencies take: Ask forgiveness, not permission. They could’ve publicly fired agents who ridiculed travelers, or at least demonstrate they heard and will address the very real invasions of personal privacy that are going on.

Only, the government being the supertanker it is, that may be giving them too much credit. They’re not even asking forgiveness: The head of the TSA and POTUS are calling these measures a necessary evil, so suck it up.

Yeah, they’re right. Suck it up America, that kid may be packing.

1 comment:

Doug Poretz said...

One evidence of the TSA's general lack of understanding of the public has been its totally inept PR campaign, for which it is now going to deploy resources (time, people, money) to enhance. It's not that I'm against PR campaigns -- for more than 40+ years, I have been in the communications business, having served numerous organizations at the most senior levels. What I AM against is PR campaigns that are badly executed and ill-conceived, which are the compounded flaws of the TSA. If you want to know my logic in more detail, I wrote about it here: