20 March 2006

Insufficient Obfuscation

A British Airways ad on BBC America and on the airline's website advertises service between New York and London for $199 each way. There are numerous caveats, of course, but the one which caught my eye was that this bargain fare requires a round trip purchase; in other words, the least you can pay for this "bargain" is $398 (plus taxes, plus surcharges, plus anything else they can think of, probably). In the most momentous brainstorm since Einstein hit upon his theory of relativity, some unheralded ad wizard has discovered that prices are more attractive if these are presented as half the amount charged twice. This pitch is so fiendishly persuasive that, although I saw the ad and decided to blog about it, I am certain that everyone else who saw it immediately purchased tickets.

Still, what is inspiration without vision? Like the pioneering soul who invented bread but failed to slice it, the British Airways adman hasn't carried through -- after all, $199 is still pretty daunting. Would anyone sponsor a child in the third world for $300 per year? Hell no! But "pennies per day" or "less than a cup of coffee" gets that food distributed, those sanitation systems built, and those warlords bribed. According to Orbitz, a flight from JFK to Heathrow and back takes fourteen hours and five minutes, or just 47 cents per minute -- better, but not misleading enough!

According to Indo.com, a website featuring tourism information for Bali and Indonesia, the distance between London and New York is 3,470 miles. (I'm sure there are other distance calculators out there, but there was something irresistible about using an Indonesian tourism site to calculate the distance from New York to London.) This works out to less than six cents per mile. If you don't think that's a remarkable bargain, get an objective opinion from an impartial third party -- offer six cents per mile to everyone who comes to you looking for Walk-a-Thon pledges (and please e-mail me their responses for my research).

Now if you'll excuse me, I must purchase some tickets to London. I have no need to go, but at just six cents per mile, how could I afford not to?

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