Airbus pulls a McWhopper with 'Congratulations Boeing' video

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Classy peacemaking video goes viral with more than 2 million views in first two days

Boeing has been making a lot of noise this year celebrating its 100th anniversary. At the risk of being drowned out, the Airbus Group on Tuesday released a video addressing its archrival’s milestone.

"We at Airbus compete hard against Boeing," says one of 36 employees from about 10 countries who appear in the 2-minute film. They ask, "What would we tell our competitors as they make a big deal about their 100th year in business? We at Airbus think the answer is obvious. All 150,000 Airbus Group people have just one thing to say to Boeing." After a long, tense pause, the employees — each in their own language — say "congratulations."

The video is the brainchild of Clay McConnell, head of communications of Airbus Group, Inc., the Americas subsidiary of the Airbus Group. "In discussing how we could position ourselves vis a vis Boeing on its 100th anniversary, we determined that we really wanted to leverage their momentum and the attention paid to their anniversary to position Airbus as an innovative, global, forward-looking and diverse company that worked on really cool stuff," he said. "Above all, we wanted to do it with good nature and a sense of humor."

The video was released Tuesday on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Weibo. McConnell said Airbus had opted to release it this way to maintain "an element of surprise. If we let it emerge organically and by word-of-mouth, the effect would be much more powerful than if we promoted it ourselves."

The strategy seems to have worked: Less than 48 hours after its release, the video had gotten over two million views on Facebook alone.

Though the move may call to mind Burger King’s award-winning McWhopper stunt, in which the company invited its fast-food rival McDonald’s to collaborate on a sandwich to honor International Peace Day, the Airbus video elicited a far less contentious response. Boeing tweeted the video on Tuesday with a message of appreciation. "Thanks @Airbus for an amazing tribute. Here's to the next century of healthy competition & industry achievement."

Boeing is celebrating its anniversary this week at the biennial Farnborough Air Show, outside London, with a 500-square-meter, interactive "Boeing Centennial Experience Pavilion," and with a special, invitation-only Founders Day program tomorrow in Seattle, where the company was established on July 15, 1916. 

The clips on the Airbus video — which was completed Monday — were shot internally by Airbus last month and woven together by Master Films in Toulouse under what McConnell called "a very low budget."

"Airbus is a little over 40 years old; we were never going to out-history Boeing," McConnell said. "We wanted to point the way forward, to stake our claim to being a strong, innovative competitor in the next 100 years.

"Secretly, Boeing and Airbus actually have a lot of respect for each other," he added, "though we don’t throw bouquets at each other very often."


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