Emirates’ “We’re On Top Of The World” Has Creativity Bounced Back?


by Ted Lim

This piece was first published in Marketing Weekender Issue 302

My phone buzzed non-stop. 

Friends, colleagues, clients and business associates brought to my attention a commercial film of an air stewardess making a pitch for her airline on top of the world’s tallest building.

Publications around the world, both on and offline, were full of praise for this advertisement. 

Whether the ad was shot live or involved CGI sparked more interest. Whether the brave lady featured was an airline crew or a stunt woman hired for the part further amplified the conversation.

Frankly, I didn’t lose much sleep over the details. What kept me up was how an airline ad got people to stop, stare and share at a time when most of us have little inclination or opportunity to fly.

This ad came out in the middle of a pandemic when people had more pressing matters to attend to. It caught the world’s attention at a time when media professionals have persuaded advertisers that the best way to engage people is to spend millions to stalk them.

Is the success of this airline ad an anomaly then?

An uncalculated stroke of creative genius that marketers cannot measure or hope to repeat in their pursuit of sustainable success, unlike the annoyingly formulaic ads that are shoved in our faces every time we pick up the phone?

Well, no.

This airline ad has all the hallmarks of what we call “good creative work”. It is simple and surprising. Engaging and entertaining. It gets people to stop, stare and share. In short, it works (or in the words of the professionals who make a living from measuring performance, it’s “effective”).

A person infinitely more creative than me once said a good ad can do the work of ten and this single “top of the world” effort from Emirates probably saved the airline a fortune in media spending (the commercial had already earned millions of views online when I last checked).

This isn’t Emirates’ first effort to outsmart what they didn’t have to outspend. A few years ago, the airline captured the world’s imagination with a live stunt at a baseball game in Los Angeles. That earned over 20 million views on Youtube alone.

Emirates isn’t the only global brand that recognizes the rich returns on investment which creativity brings to marketing. Another venerable and now sexy global brand, Volvo, brought the world to its feet with “The Epic Split”. This earned over 100 million views on Youtube.

JCVD’s epic split

So what will we do when we get back to work on Monday?

Go stalk a million people and hope one percent will respond? Or go work on that idea that a million people will share because they actually like it?

The creative idea that will make a difference. The one that moves people and business.

Creative Consultant, Ted Lim is AdFest 2020/2021 Jury President of Branded Entertainment and Effectiveness. He was Cannes Lions Jury President and honoured by AdWeek as 1 of 13 global creative leaders who is innovating advertising worldwide. Ted led Dentsu Asia-Pacfiic to a Cannes Lions Grand Prix, the D&AD Black Pencil, the Facebook Award for Innovation, the Asia-Pacific Effie Gold Award, Campaign Brief Asia’s Most Creative Network 2017 and 2018 and AdFest Network of the Year 2017, 2018 and 2019.


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