Disappearing Pensions

Yesterday, United Airlines announced yesterday that they are going to default on $3.2 Billion in pension payments to prevent bankruptcy.

Also this week, I noticed that United has reinvigorated their feel-good, animated ad campaign, in which we follow United travelers around on their business trips. In a spot I saw this week, a United passenger carries a rose with him on planes, through client meetings, in cabs—and ultimately home to his grey-haired mom.

Is running these ads on the same media that are reporting on the pension default, at the same time, a good idea? Will the ads have 1) a positive effect, neutralizing some of the bad publicity from the pension default, 2) no effect, because no one will notice the ads if they’re hearing about bankruptcy and pension defaults, or 3) a negative effect when people say, “Why are you spending all this money on ads designed to help the business long-term when you can’t pay your employees their pensions and may go bankrupt now?

What would you think of the ads if you were a United employee?

Steve Yastrow posted this on May 11, 2005, in Marketing.
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