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JetBlue Goes Populist For New Ad Campaign [Video/Pics]

At last night's Masters of Design event, Fiona Morrisson, who helped transform JFK's T5 terminal into JetBlue's hip, people-friendly gateway, teased the audience about the airline's forthcoming brand campaign.

Behind it, she says, is an industry adage that's especially popular at JetBlue: You're not flying planes, you're flying people. As relevant as that is to the company's passenger-centric image, the statement makes even more sense in the context of JetBlue's new ad campaign, which debuts today and launches officially tomorrow on YouTube.

The print component is upbeat—uplifting, even. "You Above All" is the snappy centerpiece slogan—done up in a cool blue type treatment.

The video advertisements take the power-to-the-people message even further—and in a decidedly more aggressive direction.

The ads take direct aim at other airlines, highlighting the annoyances that plague passengers when they don't fly JetBlue: exorbitant baggage fees, terrible customer service, layovers. In one innovative ad, visitors to JetBlue's channel on YouTube will be interrupted with the following message, a reminder of the ridiculous costs to keep entertained on other airlines: "Please pay $5 to continue watching all video content. $5, one-day pass." All the ads end with the same slogan: "If you wouldn't take it on the ground, don't take it in the air."

That's the opposite approach most airlines including JetBlue typically take. The company's last campaign featured the tagline "Happy Jetting," and focused on the positive experiences of flying JetBlue. "Airline advertising today is chock full of smiley, happy business people," Alex Leikikh, managing partner at Mullen, which is developing the JetBlue campaign, told the New York Times. "We wanted to do something different."

"'You above all' gets us back to our DNA, our original mission, bringing humanity back to air travel," said Martin St. George, a senior VP of marketing at JetBlue, who pointed out that the "Happy Jetting" slogan "didn't quite have a human side."

Adding a human element to the irritations of travel appears to be an attempt by JetBlue to cork some of its recent press. In August, JetBlue flight attendant Steve Slater made headlines after he lost his wits over an unruly passenger, grabbed two beers, and dramatically exited the grounded plane via the inflatable emergency slide. Slater instantly shot to folk hero fame, and the story dominated the news cycle for days. While many may have expected the airline's image to be tarnished, it appears JetBlue survived the fiasco unscathed: Traffic rose 15% this past month.

Still, that hasn't stopped the airline from aggressively pushing out this new series of ads. JetBlue said it would spend $3 million on the campaign through the end of the year.

Two beers and one slide would've sufficed.