‘Mad Men’ Nostalgia: Remembering Eastern Airlines’ ‘The Wings of Man’ Campaign

Mad MenFrom Eastern Airlines’ inception in the 1920s, the carrier was dedicated to a simple core mission: make air travel better – for everyone. The always-innovative airline, once one of America’s Big Four, is responsible for ushering in the era of universally accessible air travel while attaining the highest standards of air transportation.

While the name Eastern once meant service only in the East, the 1960s saw the airline spread its wings even further, with expanded routes to sun-soaked destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America. To reflect the paradigmatic shift, Eastern needed to find the right advertising message. Enter Young & Rubicam, one of the real firms of the advertising world depicted in the popular AMC drama series “Mad Men,” which returns for its seventh (and final) season April 13. Under the visionary leadership of Stephen Frankfurt, the firm was moving full speed ahead in a creative revolution of  its own. The result was one of the greatest airline campaigns ever created: Eastern Airlines – The Wings of Man.

As exemplified by their print ads, the work was an aesthetic tour de force. Conveying unrestricted freedom with majestic, soaring motifs, it perfectly captured both the wonder and personal nature of flight, as well as the brand’s essence. On television, the company used Orson Wells as a narrator for its commercials; the deep-voiced “Citizen Kane” star told audiences “Flight is the way we bring each person to share and understand the world he has in common with someone else.” The campaign’s message ultimately elevated an Eastern flight from a mere means of travel to a transcendent cultural connection — and produced lasting results.

While the airline has been grounded since the 1990s, Eastern still evokes a sense of nostalgia for those who remember when flying was a dignified occasion. Despite the time that has elapsed since Eastern’s last flight, the essence of the brand is timeless: industry innovations, high standards of excellence and a connection between people and places worldwide.

2 Comments on “‘Mad Men’ Nostalgia: Remembering Eastern Airlines’ ‘The Wings of Man’ Campaign

  1. If you’re talking Eastern Airlines, then why is he stepping off a TWA plane?

    • Finding a great photo of Jon Hamm may not be difficult, but finding the rights to use one sometimes is. Great catch!

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