Cannes Lions



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Case Film
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The United States’ 113th Congress is renowned for two things: bitter partisanship and an inability to get things done. By its August recess, it had passed into law just 22 of more than 5,000 bills introduced (less than one half of one percent). It couldn’t even stop automatic spending cuts, known as “sequestration,” which slashed budgets from essential food stamp programs to park services and furloughed thousands. Countless trade unions and consumer advocates lobbied to halt the furloughs. They all failed.

With one exception. Airlines for America (A4A), the trade organization for leading U.S. airlines, persuaded Congress to pass a bipartisan bill halting thousands of air traffic controller furloughs. And they did so in just 10 days.

As soon as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told carriers that air traffic controller furloughs would begin in five days and that airlines should expect widespread flight delays, we knew the disastrous effect it could have on global air travel. A4A launched a groundswell consumer movement, using social media and airline employees to stir up passenger outrage about delays. Instead of minimizing passenger complaints or encouraging formulaic emails to Washington, we directed consumers to a campaign website that enabled them to send individualized letters to ensure responses from members of Congress and the Obama administration.

In a few short days, letters expressing outrage climbed above 124,700. Three thousand stories ran worldwide (108 MM media impressions). Tweets and retweets logged a million more impressions. By day 10, Congress was inundated with opposition and forced to act.


4/16: Even as the FAA briefed A4A and carriers, we were crafting our campaign plan.

4/17: With POPVOX, we created a microsite in one day powered by a new kind of advocacy, enabling the public to send personalized – not formulaic – emails formatted to work with differing technologies on Capitol Hill, the White House, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the FAA, ensuring dramatically higher response rates than typical advocacy emails.

4/18: We held a press conference at the National Press Club, announcing the litigation and campaign efforts. The website went live as we deluged Capitol Hill with airline CEO phone calls and meetings. Meanwhile, airlines distributed messaging, including our campaign website, to their employees.

4/21-4/26: As sequestration began, we announced furlough-related flight delays on Twitter and Facebook. Airline employees encouraged passengers to express their outrage by sending letters through our website, even on their mobile devices while waiting for delayed flights.


By April 26, 2013, just 10 days after the FAA announcement, the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives passed companion bills to end the furloughs. President Obama signed the legislation into law on May 1.

The campaign would not have been successful without the 124,761 letters sent via our site to members of Congress, the White House, DOT and FAA. Our campaign spurred nearly 3,000 media stories, logging 108 million impressions. Results included on-message editorials in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and USA Today; 99 broadcast segments; 1,065 Facebook shares and 2,785 likes; and 420 retweets resulting in nearly one million Twitter impressions. Online and print advertising added another 1.6 million impressions.

Congress and the media cited public outrage as the legislation’s driver. Of all attempts to stop sequestration, from education to park services, the airline legislation was the only one passed by the “do-nothing” Congress.

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