Back of my head i_____i Friendly

Have you seen the newest posters United is running in their “Friendly” marketing campaign? They are popping up in the terminal, featuring employees and fun slogans like the rest of the ad campaign. Did you know that they used real passengers to stage the photos? I know, because one of the posters features the back of my head.


I got to meet a few employees over the course of an hour or so spent doing the photos. The two gate agents/supervisors I met (including the woman in this photo) were absolutely spectacular. They were both 25+ year veterans of the Newark station and incredibly friendly. One of the rampers also in some of the photos was quite a bit less enthusiastic about the event. He just really didn’t want to be there. It was below freezing outside so I figured that he’d enjoy the warmth of being in the terminal. Not so much. And, when asked about how he got picked to participate, it became quite clear just how much he didn’t want to be there. His answer: “I owed a guy a favor.”

I don’t really understand the ad I’m in, now that I think about it. I cannot tell who is asking whom what in this setup and who is being so friendly. I mean, I know I am and I know she is in real life, but I don’t know how it is playing in the ad. Then again, I’m not big in print marketing so there’s a pretty good chance I’m missing something obvious.

And I bet that many of you are wondering how it could be that I’m in the airport and not wearing one of my, umm, louder shirts. Turns out that they wanted something a bit more traditional for the shoot so I complied. They originally suggested that I just dress like I normally do when I travel. After I explained my “normal” version they revised the request a bit.

I’m mostly convinced that the “Friendly” campaign is failing right now because the company policies are either unpublished, internally inconsistent, asinine or some combination thereof. And with such a combination the employees either don’t understand them or don’t care enough to use them in a “friendly” manner. And that mostly sucks as there was a pretty good opportunity for this to be a successful recovery from the rather unfortunate operational debacle the carrier had gone through over the prior year.

On the plus side, however, I get to be in one of their ads. That’s definitely Back of my head i_____i Friendly.

Update: Just got word of another poster with me in it.


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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Congrats on the back of your head becoming a celebrity, haha.

    I couldn’t agree more on the failure of the “Friendly” campaign. Like many things United does these days; a decent idea, but the execution fails.

  2. What, no hawaiian shirt? I’m glad you said that it was you otherwise I would not know. Now, if you were wearing your signature shirt I would know it was you without being told.

    On another note there are some stations that have always been incredibly friendly and helpful. LAS is one that comes to mind.

  3. This has turned into almost as bad a #McDStories on twitter from a few years ago that turned to stories of food poisoning among others.

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