Something’s been bugging me about Qatar Airways.
If you’ve ever watched any of the global English-language rolling news channels – chiefly CNN International, BBC World News or Sky News (all of which keep me company in hotel rooms around the world) – you couldn’t fail to have seen an ad or a sponsor’s message from Qatar Airways, generally playing on how luxurious their onboard service is. They’ve cornered the market in sponsoring the Sky and BBC weather forecasts, which are now topped and tailed with cute little five-second Qatar Airways clips talking about how “Tonight, we expect to see inky clouds of real Arabica coffee brewing over the Middle East” (or whatever).
All their ads end with this grotesquely offensive close-up of a female steward’s right eye, as she beams in delight and her pupil dilates with the sheer sexual thrill of anticipating being able to serve you real Arabica coffee.
That image comes directly from the Qatar Airways website. If you look closely, the tagline reads “The world’s 5-star airline”. But if you play the clip, the voiceover (and the closing image) read “World’s 5-star airline.” They’ve dropped the “The”.
The same thing is repeated throughout this page, which announced the campaign. All the original poster ads say “The” – but now, none of them does. The TV campaign features the same voiceover as when it launched, but now spoken by a different actor: at some point late last year they withdrew the original ads that used “The” and re-recorded them. Why? I don’t know.
Did someone sue them for making false claims? Is a statement such as “The world’s 5-star airline” actionable? I have no idea. But if you think about it, “World’s five-star airline” (which is now the default tagline for the global campaign) is meaningless. There is no such place as “World”. Once you notice it, the ads studiously avoid saying “The world”.
I wonder why.
And is it only me who’s noticed?