American Airlines’ Web Video Near Miss … Did the Web Designers and the Web Developers Not Communicate?

This post is part of Rassak’s “YouTube Tuesdays Plus” featuring mini case studies of marketing videos (sometimes we look at other digital media too). New on Tuesdays. Don’t miss one, subscribe.

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I didn’t want to be on the American Airlines website this morning… I’m trying to get a refund on something and, well, anyway… I won’t bore you with the details. But I was on the site and I saw something that appeared quite elegant. Emphasis on appeared.

I really liked how they integrated this video play button as a hand-drawing on the napkin. I though wow, that’s some nice web design. Then I clicked.


What happened next was the a perfect example of when web design and web development break apart —it feels like one team handed the work off to another and stopped talking at that point. What started out as a beautiful, simple, integrated experience turned into the following.  Yep, after experiencing it for myself I retraced my steps and captured my screen so you could experience it too. My screencapture video is below.

1. What you see (and hear) first is me clicking like a fiend. But nothing happens. Why? Because my click is trying to open a popup window and browsers are basically set these days to block popups unless you specifically say it’s OK to open them. There’s another way to handle this as a web designer/developer that opens what’s called a “lighbox.” It’s simpler, nicer and skips the the whole pop-up blocking rigamarole. [Update: Aaron says an even better approach would be to have the video play in place—and come to think of it, that’s what the original napkin image seems to promise.]

2. OK. I go to my pop-up manager and allow the popup. This takes me a few secs. Most actual visitors would be long gone by now BTW.

3. I have to scroll back through the slideshow to find the napkin again.

4. The window opens. It bears NO resemblance to the shape of the video. I watch for a second or two to figure this out—a useful clue is that “Jaaaaane,” one of the two characters, isn’t on screen when the camera is pointed right at her. I then try to make the window bigger which pauses the video. Again, most actual visitors would be LONG gone by now.

5. I get the window a bit bigger and realize that the video has subtitles. The subtitles are key to the central comedic premise of the video—they are translating cliche business jargon into real English. But when the window opens at first there is no sign of these subtitles.

6. I get bored with the video … it’s central comedic premise isn’t that, well, comedic (to me at least… keep in mind the “brainhurt” (to quote Jaaaaane) experience itself could be coloring my view at this point). So I click skip.

7. I arrive at some kind of opportunity to transact/engage with American … but it’s still the wrong size.

8. I leave.

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