Employees as Billboards Doesn't Fly

Spirit Airlines made news last week with an idea to sell advertising space on the aprons of its flight attendants. Specifically, logos for alcoholic beverage brands would be placed on aprons. Such a move would not only create advertising revenues, but it could stimulate sales of products on board with the additional brand exposure. The head of Spirit's flight attendants' union complained about the ad proposal, saying "we're not walking billboards."

The plan to put advertising on part of employees' uniforms (which an apron would be part of a flight attendant's uniform, at least at certain times) raises the issue of whether employees should be expected to be involved in promoting other brands. Employees are perhaps the number one "billboard" for their own companies, but should they be involved in advertising other brands? In the case of the airlines, there appear to be other pieces of real estate on a plane available to sell as ad space: overhead bin doors, seat backs, and lavatories come to mind. Involving employees in ad placements could put them in an uncomfortable situation. What if a flight attendant is asked to wear an apron with an ad for a product she/he does not use? Worse, what if the advertised brand is one the employee opposes for ethical or moral reasons?

Employees should not be put in a position of having to display other companies' ads on their bodies in any way. There may be no limits to such a practice: Nurses with ads for health care products on their uniforms? Package delivery personnel advertising for retailers on their uniforms? Let's hope not.

Link: Media Buyer Planner - "Spirit Flight Attendants: We're Not Walking Billboards - New Aprons Not Cool"

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