Hello, audio explorers, and a big splashy welcome to the latest installment of Finnley’s Audio Adventures! Join me, Finnley the Dolphin, as I dive into the high-flying world of quirky audio from the comfort of my next connection flight at Wold-Chamberlain Airport. Today, I’m Fly the friendly skies of United™, and along with my complimentary beverage, bag of peanuts, they included a gem of an advertisement from the mid-20th century. This rare find remixes a song from a classic Broadway musical, famously starring the legendary Jackie Gleason, giving it a delightful twist. It’s a throwback that stands out from today’s norm, much like those catchy tunes in pharmaceutical ads. So, get ready for an audio journey that’s as unconventional as it is entertaining!
As we embark on our journey through the musical landscape of the mid-20th century, let’s delve into the world of the 1959 musical masterpiece “Take Me Along.” This production, resplendent with talent and artistry, stands as a landmark in American theater. At the heart of this musical lies its vibrant score, a rich tapestry of melody and emotion that resonates deeply with its audience.
Central to the musical’s charm is its title track, “Take Me Along,” a song that perfectly encapsulates the themes and feelings of the show. This captivating melody, along with the entire score, was the creation of the brilliant trio: Bob Merrill, Sid Davis, and Nat Miller. Among them, Bob Merrill, born Henry Levan in 1921 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, was particularly noted for his skill in crafting tunes that were both catchy and lyrically profound.
Merrill’s journey in music began with significant success in the pop genre, penning hits like “Mambo Italiano” and “If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Baked a Cake.” These early triumphs paved his path to Broadway, where he would leave an indelible mark. In the realm of Broadway, his most celebrated work includes the score for “Funny Girl” (1964), featuring Barbra Streisand, with timeless songs such as “People” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” Alongside these, his work in “Take Me Along” and “Carnival!” (1961) stand out for their melodic richness and compelling storytelling, seamlessly bridging the gap between popular and theatrical music.
Set in a quaint American town, “Take Me Along” explores family dynamics, dreams, and aspirations, creating a narrative that resonates with its audience. The musical’s score, particularly the enchanting title song, plays a pivotal role in making the production memorable. Merrill, Davis, and Miller’s collaborative effort in crafting this soundtrack not only enhances the narrative but also endures in its melodic and lyrical beauty.
Despite his public success, Merrill was known for his preference for a more private life, often shying away from the limelight. However, his legacy in the world of music is profound, extending beyond the boundaries of Broadway and popular music. His works continue to be celebrated and performed, standing as a testament to the lasting impact of versatile and adaptable artists in the American musical landscape of the mid-20th century.
Now let’s jump ahead to the 1960s. During the 1960s, United Air Lines, now known as United Airlines, experienced a period of significant expansion and transformation, aligning with the broader advancements of the Jet Age. This era marked the introduction of faster, more efficient jet aircraft to United’s fleet, including models like the Boeing 720, 727, and the iconic Boeing 707. These advancements not only revolutionized the speed and efficiency of air travel but also contributed to expanding the airline’s route network. United’s expansion was both domestic within the United States and international, reflecting the growing demand for air travel. This period also saw United engage in strategic mergers, most notably with Capital Airlines in 1961, positioning it as one of the largest airlines globally.
Technological innovation was a hallmark of United Air Lines during the 1960s. The airline was among the pioneers in adopting computerized reservation systems, a groundbreaking development that transformed the management and facilitation of airline bookings. Alongside technological advancements, United also focused on enhancing the passenger experience. The transition to jet aircraft meant not only shorter flight times but also improvements in passenger comfort, contributing significantly to the boom in commercial air travel. United’s efforts in marketing and branding, including catchy slogans and robust advertising campaigns, further solidified its presence in the airline industry.
The 1960s also presented challenges and opportunities for United Air Lines. As air travel became more commonplace, shifting from a luxury for a few to a standard mode of transportation for many, United played a key role in this transformation. However, this rapid growth and technological change brought about operational and safety challenges. United, like other airlines of the time, had to continuously adapt and improve its safety protocols and operational efficiencies. The airline operated within a heavily regulated U.S. airline industry, where government regulations influenced fares, routes, and market competition. Overall, the 1960s were a transformative decade for United Air Lines, reflecting the dynamic changes occurring in the airline industry and society.
Enter the The Leo Burnett Company, established in 1935 by its eponymous founder, stands as a titan in the world of advertising. Based in Chicago, this agency has carved out a reputation for its deeply human-centered approach to advertising, emphasizing real-life emotions and experiences that resonate universally. Leo Burnett’s philosophy of speaking directly to the ‘common person’ has shaped the agency’s distinctive style and approach.
Renowned for creating some of the most iconic advertising campaigns and characters, Leo Burnett’s portfolio includes cultural staples like Tony the Tiger for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, the rugged Marlboro Man for Marlboro cigarettes, and the cheerful Jolly Green Giant for Green Giant. These characters and campaigns reflect the agency’s knack for crafting memorable, enduring brand mascots that forge strong emotional connections with consumers.
With a formidable global presence, Leo Burnett operates across multiple countries, showcasing its ability to create culturally nuanced and impactful campaigns worldwide. The agency’s commitment to innovation keeps it at the forefront of advertising trends, employing new mediums and techniques to deliver powerful messages. This innovative spirit, combined with a diverse range of clients from various industries, underscores Leo Burnett’s adaptability and creative prowess.
The agency’s work is not only commercially successful but also critically acclaimed, earning numerous awards from prestigious organizations like the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Beyond commercial achievements, Leo Burnett is also recognized for its contributions to community and social impact campaigns, demonstrating a commitment to using its advertising expertise for positive change. In summary, the Leo Burnett Company is a paradigm of excellence in advertising, continually setting standards for creativity, emotional engagement, and cultural impact in the industry.
The Leo Burnett agency tapped Michael Cimino and Dix Marx to lead the 1967 “Take Me Along” campaign for United Airlines. During my research, no information was found on who was Dix Marx; however, Michael Cimino has had quite the career in both advertising and Hollywood.
Michael Cimino’s career in the advertising industry, which began in the 1960s in New York City, served as the foundation for his later acclaim in film making. During his time in advertising, Cimino worked at major agencies, where he was involved in creating concepts and scripts for commercials. This early period was marked by his innovative approach and effectiveness in the medium, quickly establishing him as a creative force. His ability to succinctly tell a story within the limited format of a commercial was particularly notable, showcasing a talent for concise narrative structure and engaging visual storytelling.
Cimino’s success in advertising played a pivotal role in his transition to the film industry. The skills he homed in creating commercials – such as visual aesthetics, audience engagement, and narrative efficiency – were directly transferable to film making. His expertise in crafting short yet impactful narratives in commercials translated seamlessly into the longer format of cinema, allowing him to develop a unique style characterized by meticulous attention to detail and a strong visual narrative.
Cimino is most renowned for his work in film, particularly for directing “The Deer Hunter” (1978), which garnered critical acclaim and won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Another notable work, “Heaven’s Gate” (1980), initially faced production challenges and financial failure but has since been reevaluated and recognized for its significance in cinema. The influence of Cimino’s advertising background is evident in these films, where his knack for storytelling, developed in the advertising world, shines through in his cinematic creations.
Building on the innovative groundwork laid by the Leo Burnett agency and the creative leadership of Michael Cimino and Dix Marx, the “Take Me Along” campaign for United Airlines took a novel approach in its promotional material. This creative direction is exemplified in the campaign’s accompanying album. On the surface, the album’s sleeve bears a standard front design, typical of its genre, aligning with conventional expectations. However, the back of the sleeve reveals a more inventive and immersive element. It features a detailed storyboard of the commercial’s filming process, a nod to the meticulous planning and creative vision behind the campaign.
As listeners engage with the album, they embark on an auditory journey guided by the narrator. This narrative experience is designed to align with the storyboard, enabling listeners to visualize the scenes as they unfold. This method of storytelling is reflective of Cimino’s background in advertising, where he developed a knack for concise yet impactful narratives, a skill that clearly influenced this campaign’s approach. The album offers a unique window into the production’s behind-the-scenes world, including various outtakes. These snippets from the orchestra, singers, and voice-over artists provide a raw, unfiltered look at the creative process, contrasting with the final polished version at the album’s end. This contrast not only showcases the evolution from concept to finished product but also echoes the creative journey Cimino undertook from advertising to film making, highlighting the depth and intricacy of the creative process in both industries.
In a related discovery, I came across a mention of a similar promotion by TWA airlines, though the exact year wasn’t specified. This reference was in connection with United Air Lines’ “Take Me Along” campaign. Art Buchwald, in the October 4, 1967 edition of the Daily Iowan, recounted an amusing yet problematic outcome of TWA’s version of the promotion. He noted that TWA had sent thank-you letters to wives for flying with them and urged them to share their positive experiences regarding the safety of air travel. The twist, however, was that many recipients of these letters had never actually flown with TWA. It appeared that some husbands had used the offer to travel with someone other than their wives, leading to dissatisfaction among the wives and frustration with TWA for inadvertently revealing this to them. This story, also referenced in a Wikipedia article and echoed in a 1958 Reader’s Digest publication, seems to be more anecdotal than factual. Further research did not substantiate any such promotion by TWA predating the United Air Lines campaign.
Well, fellow audio adventurers, we’ve navigated through a sea of sound and history in this installment of Finnley’s Audio Adventures. From the melodious waves of Broadway to the high-flying skies of United Airlines, our journey has been nothing short of extraordinary. Along the way, we’ve uncovered the creative genius of Bob Merrill and the transformative era of United Airlines in the 1960s, all leading us to the inventive “Take Me Along” campaign spearheaded by the Leo Burnett agency.
Our exploration didn’t just stop with the stories behind these audio treasures. We delved into the unique album accompanying the United Airlines campaign, a piece that beautifully encapsulates the essence of storytelling in advertising. Guided by the narrator, we visualized the storyboard, heard the raw outtakes, and experienced the evolution of a creative concept into a polished final product. This auditory voyage not only entertained us but also offered a glimpse into the meticulous craft of advertising and film making. So, as we prepare to disembark from this audio exploration, let’s take a moment to appreciate the rich tapestry of sounds and stories that surround us. Whether it’s a Broadway tune, a vintage airline campaign, or the unexpected tales from the advertising world, each piece carries its own unique rhythm and narrative. Remember, every groove has a story, and every story sings a song. Until our next audio adventure, keep your fins to the waves and your ears to the skies. Farewell, and thank you for joining me, Finnley the Dolphin, on this remarkable journey through the sonic seas of history!