A chart-topping in-flight safety video? You better believe it (and watch it)

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Look around any aircraft cabin during the in-flight safety demonstration and I’d guestimate that about 20% of passengers at most are actually watching as the crew show us how a seatbelt works (“because all aircraft are different”).

The other 80% are either sending a last-minute text before they get told off for keeping their phone on; reading their free copy of whichever promo newspaper is on the flight; or trying to work out whether £5 really is too much for a lukewarm slab of melted-then-rehardened cheddar on a stale ciabatta with scalding dishwater-tasting coffee. I’m a bit weird, so I actually do watch the demonstration, but not because I don’t know what I’m doing. Such is my copywriter/editor bent that I’m checking for mistakes.

Don’t bother commenting on how sad that is; I hate myself for it already.

But last week, Virgin America challenged the boring safety video preconception – and I’m pretty sure that 100% of people would watch (if not absorb the content of) their kickin’ new safety demonstration video if it was on their flight. Particularly if the number of YouTube hits it’s already received is anything to go by. Since its launch on 29 October, it has gone viral in a big way, clocking up over four million hits already, with the hashtag #VXsafetydance.

Directed by Jon M. Chu of Step Up 2 fame (and Justin Bieber’s Believe documentary, but we won’t hold that against him), it’s a slick, cool, catchy and surprisingly informative take on everything you need to know pre-flight and in-flight. Choreographed by Jamal Sims and Christopher Scott, it uses Virgin America’s cabin crew, a rather naughty nun (she’s using an electronic device – probably got Francois Poulenc’s Stabat Mater on her iPod or something), some contortionists trying to work out a way to get out of their seatbelts without unbuckling them, and a couple of big-name dancers for good measure: Todrick Hall and Madd Chadd.

I’ve got to say, I love the video. It’s all the things I’ve mentioned above – slick, cool and catchy – but I did hesitate just before I added “surprisingly informative”. On the upside, yes, it does contain every last shred of information that one needs (and that’s quite a feat in itself, fitting all that into a song AND making it catchy). But on the downside, the fact is that the production itself is so good that it’s very easy to ignore the rather important messages and just marvel at the production alone. Given that the message is or should be everything, one could justifiably question whether it is “fit for purpose” to use a corporate phrase. Or to put it another way – whether it fails.

Will people watch it AND follow the instructions? If I had to bet on it, I’d say a lot of people wouldn’t. But on the flipside, given my [admittedly random] guestimate that 80% of people don’t watch a standard in-flight safety demonstration, then even if only 50% of passengers take the message on board (pun intended), then that’s still better than the dwindling 20%.

There are already plans to start work on a second video. Ever keen to involve the public (and doubtless informed by the success of such TV programmes as So You Think You Can Dance), Virgin has decided that any home-bopper can upload their own dance moves at http://VXsafetydance.com to be in with a chance of appearing in the video. Let the judging commence – especially of the inevitable uncoordinated failures, X Factor style. They alone might go viral.

Anyway, judge the success of Virgin America’s video for yourself here. I challenge you not to watch it all the way through; it’s so clever and fun that I think you’ll struggle. In fact, you might even join in the chorus by the end:

“So tonight get ready to fly, cos we’re gonna live it on up in the sky…”



by Ashley Morrison

Ashley is a copywriter, editor and blogger

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