A Word From Our Sponsors… I Wish They All Could Be Caledonia Girls


When watching these two British Caledonian adverts it’s worth bearing in mind that, all evidence to the contrary, these entertaining but slightly troubling commercials were made in the 1980s (82 and 83, the Choob believes), and not the 1950s.

Here’s the first one I’d like you to watch:

First of all, it’s true that the tune is very catchy – but then it’s one of the Beach Boys‘ biggest hits, so it would be, wouldn’t it?

Second, the altered lyrics (from Californian Girls to Caledonian Girls) were also very memorable, aided by the general cheesiness of the production – chances are, if you were old enough to have seen this ad the first time round, you will still remember it well enough to sing along. So from a brand awareness point of view, it is a great example of the commercial-maker’s art.

But… they get that message across with shameless sexism so blatant that it would make Mad Men‘s Don Draper and the staff of the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency (circa 1963) blush.

Look around those planes – not a woman in sight, apart from the stewardesses, whose sole purpose appears to be to lean suggestively over the middle-aged male passengers, brush against them, feed them grapes (that’s not a figure of speech, it actually happens in the second advert, below!) and generally give them the none-too-subtle impression that they are be up for some mile-high rumpy-pumpy.

That the ads are sexist is certain. More uncomfortable, watching from a distance of 25 years, is the racial attitudes. In truth, racism is probably too strong an indictment – if they are guilty of anything, it’s probably racial/national stereotyping. There’s no malice intended – but that doesn’t make it right.

Here is the second advert. I believe it was made before the one above – and for my money, it’s even more sexist and suggestive, and contains just as much racial stereotyping (but thankfully, no dodgy comments about rice…):

Still, as a product of their time (albeit a time that out to have moved on at least a decade before the ads were made), the British Caledonian ads are a fascinatingly cheesy reminder of an era and style of advertising long gone. They should make you smile at the dodgy, awkward singing from the uniformly unsuitable singing passengers – while at the same time shifting uncomfortably in your chair as you think that, not SO long ago, this passed for acceptable

British Caledonian flew off into the sunset for good a few years after these adverts were made, swallowed up by British Airways. It’s always a little sad watching adverts for now-defunct brands because it means that, ultimately, the advertising failed – or, at least, wasn’t enough to overcome fundamental flaws with the business.

However, thanks to the internet, once-household names such as British Caledonian live on – even if not always for all the right reasons.

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11 Comments

Filed under A Word From our Sponsors

11 responses to “A Word From Our Sponsors… I Wish They All Could Be Caledonia Girls

  1. What a load of rubbish. As an ex BCAL stewardess, we loved the Ads and don’t consider them sexist at all. How about Singapore Girl as well.

  2. Una Allman

    As an ex Air Hostess we loved the advert best airline in the world will never forget it

  3. Frank Brejcha ( Retired BCAL Captain )

    I fully agree with Jean. The crews were the most professional that you could ever wish to fly with, from an in-flight service point of view, but more importantly in their ability to look after ALL their passengers in the unlikely event of an emergency. BCAL was BOUGHT by British Airways because Lord King did not like the fact that, for a relatively small Airline, we were head and shoulders above ALL the British Airlines at the time. As for advertising, our crews were proud of their reputation which was second to none in the Airline World. Take a look at Virgins advertising right now in 2014, and you will see them employing similar techniques , and who is complaining ? People who can only find things to grumble about which happened more than 25 years ago, need to go and get a life!!!

  4. John White

    Would the moron who wrote this article please have the decency to put your name to it! Grow some balls you coward!!! I bet if you admitted the truth, you not only smiled and enjoyed theadverts first time aaround but sang along to them and no doubt flew British Caledonian Airways to check the beautiful BCAL girls first hand! I challenge you to put your name to the insulting article you wrote, you gutless coward!!!

  5. alayne saleh

    Original British Caledonian girl here. Can you honestly not tell that these adverts were tongue in cheek? I agree wholeheartedly with all the comments of my ex-colleagues. Stop the ridiculous P.C. bullshit.

  6. Lynz Walker

    As my husband would say ‘WALOB’ ! Work it out…..
    ridiculous article…
    Also as an ex hostie, with British Cakedonian at that time, it was considered a great advert..yes cheesy..but tongue in cheek and certainly not racist..
    What planet is this twit from ?!

  7. Nick Ellis

    What a humourless buffoon the author of this silly piece of journalism is. If he/she takes offence to the adverts it says more about their stunted development in life than about the ad agency. Service levels were important back in this time and BCal was well known to have the highest levels of service.

  8. Alan K

    Alan Killick: As an ex BCal employee I find the writers article the biggest load of utter drivel. Was he/she around when these ads were broadcast or didn’t mummy let him/her stay up late enough to see them and only now is he/she finding them and thinking there is something to complain about. People like this contribute to the mamby pamby state we are forced to live in these day. GROW UP and find something else to bitch about. As guitars2guitars@others have said, Virgin Atlantic ads are even more sexist but this twat of a writer is probably a Branson lover so wouldn’t dare complain about them.

  9. Amanda pugh

    The advertising didn’t fail …it was hugely successful ….the reason we were swallowed up by BA was for that very reason …..it always makes me chuckle to read such utter crap written about the aviation business by third rate journalists who can’t be bothered to do their research .

    As for rest of this tosh ..as a former Bcal girl ….We loved the advertising ,we were proud of our airline and our image and the majority of our business traffic was gender specific . That’s just the way it was .

  10. Jill capaldi

    This commercial worked well and although I it was a bit ‘cheesy’ we loved it, we were proud of our airline and all that went with the job, we were caring and dedicated unlike some airline employees today.

  11. Douglas Holland

    This article unnoticed by ex BCAL Staff until August 2014 resulted in 10 Comments here and storm of comment in a social media group.
    I have been, on and off since then being looking at the current and where possible recent Television Advertisements by the Worlds Major Airlines and have reached the following conclusion, all most of them could, if viewed the way you did the BCAL Ads be described as having racial and/or national stereotyping. Again using your criteria most are sexist, some slightly more subtly than the BCAL and some a lot more blatant. Fact Sex sells whether targeted at Men, or Women and if cleverly done to both!

    Some non-Airline Advertising on the Continent and Scandinavia, I suggest from your article would cause you to have a lie down in a darkened room as it pushes the boundaries between Advertising and very soft pron.

    Obviously in you are entitled to express your opinion and.whilst I find your entire article sad, rather than making me annoyed, I must thank you for providing myself and my ex colleagues with the right to respond.

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