Insights Serra Balls

Going to the Bark Side

Could United Airlines have done a better job on their dog scandal, and the FCO’s agitprop tactics.

[vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” text_align=”left” background_animation=”none” css_animation=””][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]United Airlines this week was in the dog house over the death of a French Bulldog on one of its flights, followed by the airline mistakenly sending a Kansas-bound German Shepherd to Japan. Dog deaths on planes totalled 24 in the US last year, and it emerged that 18 of them were on United.  As more and more passengers want to travel with their beloved pets, it seems United is a victim of its tacit policy to encourage furry travellers on its flights.

We take full responsibility and are deeply sorry for this tragic accident,” they said reactively in response to media enquiries, “We remain in contact with the family to express our condolences and offer support.”

This response fails to appreciate, seemingly, that United are fully in the eye of the storm, in a dog-eared mess that plucks the heartstrings of the public, able to post their cute pet photos virally and express outrage. #boycottunited, #unitedkillsdogs and #unitedtaxidermy has trended. A quick word cloud shows the kind of messages you definitely don’t want your brand associated with.

CEO Oscar Munoz survived a scandal last year when a video captured airport officers forcibly dragging a United passenger down an airplane aisle. With this recent storm, 48 hours in they’ve chosen to say nothing on social, nothing on their newsroom. This flat-footed approach does nothing to counteract the impression of a corporate culture of insensitivity. 

 First, they need to engage with their customer community. A short video expressing regret and a review of their practices would help. Then they need to take remedial steps…what about announcing a partnership with a veterinary association to review their practices or free upgrades to all those who choose to take dogs with them, or a promise to train all of their cabin crew on animal welfare?

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”447″ img_size=”full” qode_css_animation=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_type=”row” use_row_as_full_screen_section=”no” type=”full_width” text_align=”left” background_animation=”none” css_animation=”” css=”.vc_custom_1534365729213{margin-top: 30px !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]Ministry of Propaganda

A possible threat to Russian state broadcaster Russia Today, failed to materialise this week as the UK responded to an assassination attempt on Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

Rumours swirled that the Russian-funded TV channel – which counts Ken Livingston and Jose Mourinho as its preferred pundits – might lose its licence to operate in the UK.

Instead it seems the UK government is looking to play Russia at its own game.  In an animation posted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office this week, the UK unveiled its answer to Russia’s own misinformation strategy. Set to jaunty music which is rather more Dad’s Army than Red Army, the short video sets out the UK’s position that recent events illustrate a pattern of Russian aggression.

If this is the beginnings of a new UK agitprop capability however, we may have misunderstood the rules of the game.  Russia is not competing to advance its own reality so much as simply destroy the pillars which support ours.  As the chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov once observed: ‘The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda.  It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.’