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Old Ad Slogans Are New Again for United and Las Vegas

A still from "Trophy," the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors commercial for the new "What Happens in Vegas" ads

Courtesy Las Vegas Tourism via YouTube

A still from "Trophy," the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors commercial for the new "What Happens in Vegas" ads

It’s hard to keep a good idea down, especially in advertising. In an ode to nostalgia—and past marketing successes—United Airlines (UAL) and Las Vegas tourism officials are resurrecting their most successful ad campaigns. Yep, so successful you’ve no doubt heard of both: the earnest invitation to “fly the friendly skies” and the naughty promise that “what happens here, stays here.”

United used its friendly-skies tagline for some three decades until 1996—check out the 1960s incarnation above for a sense of the slogan’s long life. The new, refreshed campaign will begin airing on Sunday during NFL games, the PGA Tour Championship, 60 Minutes, and the Emmy Awards broadcast, starring voice-over work by actor Matt Damon. The revived pitch is aimed at telling customers that the airline is “legroom friendly,” “online friendly” and “shut-eye friendly,” according to the New York Times. United will also continue using George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue melody in its advertising, which first appeared in 1987.

In Las Vegas, meanwhile, the return to “What happens here” comes after the convention and visitors bureau scored a miserable flop with Lasvegasdotcom, a generic, middle-aged insurance salesman conceived to help market the city’s hotel-booking website of the same name. The campaign was designed to persuade would-be Vegas visitors to overcome feelings of intimidation, identified through focus-group research, over the city’s abundant tourist offerings.

Another oft-used tagline—”that new car smell”—is being riffed on this month as “new plane smell” by American Airlines to tout its new Airbus A319 jets, a cornerstone of its fleet refreshment. Now if some ad maven could just find a way to bring back Colonel Sanders. Maybe he can catch a flight on a late-model plane with a Vegas showgirl ….

Bachman is an associate editor for

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