By Nicholas Kugge
A couple of days ago I flew back to France. I am still excited to take the plane, despite having lived and
travelled abroad. I always have this feeling of heading for something new, even if I know it’ll just feel like
home. I like the distinctive ambiance which you can feel in airports. This weird feeling of being
surrounded by hundreds of people, sometimes seated beside them for hours and yet have no impact at
all on their life. It’s fascinating we are spending some time with so many different people, all probably
sharing unique stories and we don’t show any curiosity. I have to admit I am probably guilty of putting
my big headphones on and of turning into another zombie. But not this time. Following are some of the
situations which caught my attention during this late, long but cheap Ryanair flight.
There is something I really hate it is listening to people talking about advertising when they really don’t
know anything about it, especially when I am queuing on the jet bridge at 1 a.m. Thus, as I was heading
to seat C3, we got blocked on the bridge. The only distraction apart from staring at each other’s rear – at
least for the couple in front of me – was to analyse one of HSBC ads. For the following three minutes and
a half Don Draper and Peggy Olson had suddenly materialized. Don didn’t understand why so many
posters where displayed next to each other despite Peggy’s wise remarks. They then spent the remaining
minute debating about the purpose of the ad until we finally boarded in. I could still hear them discuss
about it, as I sat down. I unfortunately don’t know if Don and Peggy managed to reach a consensus. After
all, it’s maybe not ideal to have a long attention span from the public.
After getting rid of Don and Peggy I sat down near the porthole, buckled up and immediately started to
doze. I was woken up by a French Sothern accent “Bonsoir”. Great, I had already landed in Marseille.
“Mmmm” I replied with a perfect English accent. I suddenly realised I was facing a French grandmother
and not the French stewardess I was expecting – we hadn’t even taken off. After dealing with this
disappointment I was confronted to a major dilemma. Should I pretend to be an English tourist visiting
the South of France – leading to a conversation on wine chateau and golf course – or should I reveal my
true identity. I chose the second option, “Bonsoir” I said, with a French accent this time. In less than an
hour the old lady had told me everything about her life. I had the feeling of being the publisher of a
famous novelist on her deathbed, listening to her billon pound story without interruption. The book
wasn’t that good. But I smiled when I discovered she was actually heading to Saint-Tropez to see her
lover, naughty Grandma.
After all I enjoyed these moments spent with these passengers. Not only due to the source of human
insights they can possibly generate. But also because after establishing so many consumers’ profile,
behaviour and pattern we tend to forget what a real consumer looks like.
Thus, I will keep watching and listening to people. And who knows I’ll maybe be part of someone else’s story.