The other side of the Scottevest scandal: Did Jordan try to get his “beat the system” ad rejected?

By | October 6th, 2010

It’s hard to find an airline blogger who hasn’t reported on the Scottevest scandal. Late last week, Delta Air Lines’ in-flight magazine turned down an ad for Scott Jordan’s jackets — an ad that offered a way to “beat the system” that requires air travelers pay for their checked bags.

Jordan has been aggressively pitching media, including me. Over the weekend, he left a message on my cell phone that promised “the backstory is more interesting than what’s been printed.” (See an updated comment from Jordan at the end of this interview.)

I was intrigued. Since Jordan has told his story to everyone already, I thought I’d try to get Delta’s side of the controversy. So far, the carrier has only issued terse rebuttals to Jordan’s claims, citing its policy of keeping business transactions confidential. I asked Marialice Harwood, publisher of Delta Sky Magazine, if she could fill in some of the gaps. Here’s our interview.

Can you give me the Reader’s Digest version of what happened?

On Wednesday of last week, our sales rep in New York received an inquiry from an agency, asking if they could get a page in the November issue of Sky. We asked if we could see the actual ad, which is standard when we have a new advertiser, and especially if we can’t tell what the ad is by the name.

We saw the ad, and we approved it.

Wait. You approved the ad?


[Note: Here’s the original ad.]

What happened then?

They came back to us, and said we are going to need an extension. They said they needed to tweak a few things. But we had already seen the ad and approved it. We made it clear to them that the revised ad would need to go through the approval process, too.

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Are your standards for ads spelled out anywhere?

Yes. On our rate card, it says all advertising is subject to approval. Under payment terms, it says the content and placement of all advertising is subject to Delta Air Lines approval. It says, we recommend all images and verbiage be airline/flying friendly to facilitate this practice.

What kind of changes are normally made to an ad?

This close to deadline? The changes are normally very small. Maybe someone has put the wrong ad code or they need to fix a date. I’ve never seen a revision like this.

What was your reaction when you saw the new ad?

[Note: Here’s the new ad.]

When I saw the second ad on Friday, I looked at the headline, and it said, “Beat the system.” And I said, “I’m not comfortable with that headline.” Beat the system? This is a vest that you’re going to go through security with. Here’s a last-minute ad, we’re right up against deadline.

I wanted Delta to take a look at this. And Delta concurred with me: This isn’t an ad that we want to take. We want to be talking about the positive things that go with travel. It just didn’t meet our standards.