I am incredibly cynical about advertising, so it takes a lot for a TV ad to break through my hard shell of willful disbelief. But every now and then, a TV ad really affects me. The new British Airways 90-second TV ad, “To Fly. To Serve.” is one of them. This is one of the most effective ads I’ve seen in a while.

Watch the ad here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4JdQi60an0

Why do I like this ad? Well for one thing, it’s beautiful. The production values are superb, with a cinematic quality, effectively understated music, nostalgic scenes, historically accurate planes, and a sense of shifting momentum as you travel through the years and the scenes and styles change with fluid motions. When they show the footage of British Airways captains doing their pre-flight checks in the cockpit, it’s almost like watching astronauts on the launching pad.

But beyond the production values, this British Airways ad is inspiring. It touches on something essential about flying, which we jaded modern air travelers tend to forget: flying is really amazing!

People always take it for granted that we can get on a plane and fly across the planet. But the truth is, the jumbo jets and seatback trays and trappings of passenger air travel that we know today were all built on a long heritage of daring, adventure, risk, experimentation and glamour. The early aviation pioneers paved the way for the jumbo jets we fly on today.

I think this was the point that British Airways was trying to make with “To Fly. To Serve.” They are trying to remind people of how amazing it truly is to fly. They’re trying to re-connect people to feelings of majesty and grandeur related to flight, and to think of flying in slightly more “elevated” terms. Flying doesn’t have to a boring chore full of indignities and inconveniences. If you think about it, flying is fundamental to the human spirit.

While we might not have multi-million dollar jumbo jets or lavishly-produced TV ads, every entrepreneur who decides to start a business can learn something from British Airways’ “To Fly. To Serve.” For example:

  • What are the forgotten/overlooked “awesome things” about your business?
  • What are the things that your customers might take for granted (or that you might take for granted) about your business?
  • How can you do a better job of reminding your customers (and reminding yourself) of what makes your business great?

Do you ever stop to think, “Wow, isn’t it amazing that I’m in business? Isn’t it fantastic that I’m able to make a living doing what I do?”

I think about this a lot. As recently as two years ago, the idea of being self-employed felt impossible. I thought I would be trapped in a cubicle for the rest of my days. I am often mystified that I can make a living doing what I do. The “newness” of having my own business still hasn’t worn off – I get to work with great people all over the U.S. and all over the world. Instead of one “job,” I have multitudes of interesting, challenging projects. Instead of one paycheck, I get the safety net of having lots of paychecks from multiple clients.

Sometimes I take it for granted, sometimes I get a little complacent or bored or fatigued – but then I have a really great project or a really great experience or a really great day at work, and it feels like I’m taking flight again for the first time.

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