16.14 Advertising: Locate Information from Sources

Depending on the questions you need to answer, there is a vast array of potential sources of information. Following is a sampling of the contributors that would have relevant information and the kinds of information you could find.

Private-sector institutional sources:

Public-sector institutional sources:

  • court records that document the interactions the company and competitors in the industry have had with the U.S. justice system

  • government records that document regulation of the industry (Federal Aviation Administration reports, Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports, etc.)

  • government records that provide insight into the financial health of the industry (Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports)

  • government records about consumer complaints about the industry (Aviation Consumer Protection agency reports which are housed in the U.S. Department of Transportation)

Scholarly sources:

Journalistic sources:

  • news operations that write about the industry or are published in towns where key companies in that industry operate

Informal sources:

  • social media pages where people talk about that industry and its products/services

Once you have a good understanding of the industry overall and the types of advertising that are typical for companies in that sector, you can start to search for specific information about United Airlines, the company for which you are preparing the new business pitch.

Again, you would identify a number of important questions to answer:

  • How does United stack up against its competitors?

  • Is the company financially sound?

  • Does the company have a “unique selling proposition”?

  • Who are United’s current customers and what do customers think about United?

  • What do relevant workers’ groups think about United? (pilots, flight attendants, baggage handlers, air traffic controllers, aircraft manufacturers, etc.)

  • What have United’s ads looked like in the past? To whom were they targeted? Where did the ads appear? Were they effective?

  • How much has United spent on advertising in the past?

  • Who should we propose that the airline target with their advertising? Business travelers, families, retirees, customers currently flying with other airlines or those who are traveling by other means, etc.?

A tiny sample of what you could find:

Private-sector institutional sources

  • United’s own demographic data about customers

  • United’s corporate information

  • McGarryBowen’s advertising work for United

  • Google Finance’s compilation of public-sector and private-sector data about the company

  • Customer ratings for United produced by other organizations

  • Syndicated research services reports about ad spending for United; this would tell you where United ads are currently appearing and would help you identify the audiences that are currently being targeted with the advertising

Public-sector institutional sources

Scholarly sources

  • scholars who have studied the company specifically

  • scholarly studies about airline customer satisfaction that include United’s rankings

Journalistic sources

Informal sources

After reviewing the information you have found, you have learned that United is doing well financially but their customer satisfaction ratings are at the bottom of the heap and their current advertising campaign, which resurrected the 30-year-old slogan “Fly the Friendly Skies,” has been widely ridiculed as ineffective and downright misleading. Especially after the airline’s horrendous treatment of a passenger forcibly removed from a United flight in spring 2017, the company has a major PR problem. The company has simmering labor problems with its workforce (dissatisfied pilots, flight attendants, airplane mechanics, etc.) and a public image problem as a large, impersonal corporate behemoth after its merger with Continental.


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Information Strategies for Communicators Copyright © 2015 by Kathleen A. Hansen and Nora Paul is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.