Be slow to promise, but quick to deliver

Don Levin, my very first boss at Hill & Knowlton, had a pillow on his office couch that was embroidered with the aphorism, 'Be slow to promise, but quick to deliver.'

I liked Don's pillow, and thought of its words of wisdom today when I spied this Bombardier print ad standing proud on my New Jersey Transit 7:27am from Middletown to Penn Station.

IMG-20130204-00001In case you can't make out the headline, it reads:

'By the time you finish this sentence, one of our planes or trains will have departed or arrived.'

My visceral response echoed that of legendary New York Yankees broadcaster, Mel Allen who, when describing a totally unexpected play on the field, would scream, “Whoa, Nellie!”

As a long-suffering New Jersey Transit commuter and United Airlines Silver Elite member (BTW, based on the way they treat me, I really should be re-titled Rust Elite), I reacted to the Bombardier ad with a mixture of disgust and nausea.

A Bombardier train or plane may very well be departing or arriving somewhere in the world, but I can almost guarantee that, if it's a NJ Transit piece of equipment, it:

– Is inching along at a snail's pace.
– Has befouled, non-working restrooms.
– Features a cadre of morbidly obese conductors whose girth is exceeded only by their arrogance.
– Takes communications to a new low by NEVER explaining why one's train is moving so slowly or, as is more likely the case, not moving at all.

And, if United has included any Bombardier planes in its worldwide fleet, one can assume:

– It's being held at the gate because the hydraulic fluid light refuses to turn off (“And, er, ah, ha, we just need to wait a little while for the fine folks from maintenance to give it a quick once over, and then we'll be on our way to Belize, where's it's a balmy 85 degrees! Over.”).
– The legroom would cause phlebitis in the littlest of little people. In fact, the word legroom on ANY plane nowadays should be re-defined as an oxymoron.
– The flight attendants' rude and patronizing behavior would put them on the fast track to landing an NJ Transit conductor gig should United decide to once again downsize.

I'm betting that Bombardier's chief marketing officer, as well as his ad agency's creative director and copy writer have never once ridden on a NJT-branded Bombardier train. Ditto for having attempted to fly on a United-leased Bombardier jet.

If they had, they’d quickly amend their ad copy to read:

“By the time you finish reading this sentence, you'll still be delayed, received no explanation for the delay, are still unable to use one of our restrooms and, oh yeah, are being dissed by either your conductor or flight attendant.”

And, the tagline would no longer read: 'Get on board at'

Instead, it would state: 'Hey, we just build these things. Maybe they'll depart. Maybe they'll arrive. And, there's a better-than-even chance that maybe they'll do neither.'

Oh, and the Bombardier folks should go online at eBay and see if they can purchase Don Levin's by-now battered pillow. I suggest they read its words of wisdom before launching their next campaign.

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