PRINT Summer 1986


the tourist’s industry’s Dramamine against terrorism. Seeing the world through travel ads.

THE ADS USED TO SAY “See America first.” They’re saying it again. Chevy Chase and his family are probably not going on a European Vacation this summer, they’re probably going to the Hamptons, along with all the other people who aren’t going to Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Morocco, Egypt, Israel, and of course Turkey.

I’m not going to Long Island just because it’s safer than the Mediterranean, I’m going because “I ❤️ NY.” I also like negative advertising. Tell me not to buy it and I’ll try it. Give me a glass of your cheapest Italian wine and a couple of Tylenols and put me behind the wheel of a Corvair I didn’t always feel this way It started when I learned to like flying. I used to be scared of it until I saw the movie The Right Stuff. I think it happened during Sam Shepard’s Machbusting point-of-view shot when the turbulence got to be outstanding and he rode it like a wave.

I was never aware of Korean Airlines until the jetliner carrying US Congressman Larry McDonald and a few hundred others was shot down by Russian fighters after it flew over the Kamchatka Peninsula. As a result, I learned that Korean was the cheapest carrier to Japan. I also noticed that shortly after this incident there was suddenly quite a lot of advertising for Korean Airlines. “Comfort, elegance, and convenience are only half the story,” proclaimed the TV spot. If I were writing for Korean I’d have tried “Fly the adventurous skies.”

There is a strange netherworld of copywriting that deals with disaster: warning about the Dalkon Shield IUD, rebuilding the credibility of Tylenol, marketing a weight-loss product that happens to be called AYDS, telling the world there’s no glass in the Gerber’s. It’s an incongruous, convoluted job, but somebody’s got to do it. And this summer somebody has to convince Americans that the Med is not dead. That it’s safe to fly east of Gibraltar or even anywhere despite front-page pictures of a baby who was sucked through a hole in a plane bombed by terrorists. “May the fjords be with you,” is the cosmic slogan of the Ocean Princess, a ship of Panamanian registry that sails through Russian waters. Israel says “Come stay with friends!” Which is similar to saying “Come stay with allies.”

Nobody is saying “Give Tunisia a Shot This Summer,” or “Surprising Crete,” or “It’s Livelier in Lebanon.”

Selling tours to Alaska, you can get away with the phrase “cruise adventure!” People aren’t afraid of icebergs anymore. But the Achille Lauro’s owners wouldn’t use that copy. The Greek islands are not being pushed in the light of the Trojan Wars these days.

We know that Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, and the Fat Boys are “not going to play Sun City,” and we know that Bishop Desmond Tutu is not a tourist attraction, but in the hope of reaching freethinkers South Africa says “Come see for yourself!”

Aruba is “the friendly Dutch island in the Caribbean.” And we all know that some of those other islands aren’t so friendly. You know who you are.

Jamaica, which was forced to halt a revolution some years ago because of the loss of tourism, now sings, “Come back to Jamaica, Jamaica again. . . . ”

The security trend began some time ago in travel advertising. “You’re not just flying, you’re flying the friendly skies,” is what most travelers want to know, and United Airlines knows that they want to know it. In April, shortly after the US self-defense action in Libya, Trans World Airlines and Pan American World Airways added a $5 surcharge to their transatlantic fares to pay for additional security. “The important thing about the fee is that it reassures the flying public that the airline is doing something formidable to protect them,” said Louis Marckesano, a securities analyst for Janney Montgomery Scott, Inc., quoted in the New York Daily News.

Lufthansa is no dummy corp. A recent print ad shows a castle on a mountain (no doubt overlooking the Rhine), a rather impregnable-looking castle, turreted, surrounded by cliffs. The caption: “Presenting summer vacations for people with unusually high standards.” In earlier times, with a caption like that they would have shown a crystal goblet, a wine steward, an elegant couple in a fine old country inn, the immaculate livery of a hotel staff. But no, for folks with high standards in 1986, here’s our typical fortified residence.

Someday a spunky little trouble spot is going to come along and make history with a high-risk travel package. It will be the rage among Britons, Germans, Americans, and Japanese. A cruise, perhaps, whose passengers would earn framed certificates: “We crossed the Line of Death and lived.” Haiti is cool for the moment. Except that it’s too hot in the summer. But they’re running their ads again. Maybe even the Philippines could turn into a secure port of call for pleasure one day soon. Grenada did.

Lady Liberty, America’s hood ornament, is having her 100th birthday this July. She’s America’s classic travel ad. Once she pitched our advantages to the “wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” Today she reminds us, their descendants, that if you want to stay free, as Dorothy of Kansas learned, “there’s no place like home.” The tall ships will be there. But they canceled the aircraft carrier. They said it had something to do with the tides.

Glenn O’Brien writes a column on advertising for Artforum.