#flightvsbike: Social Media Takes on JetBlue for Carmageddon

19 Jul

In case you were hiding under a rock over the last several weeks, July 16-17 was Carmageddon weekend in Los Angeles. Ten miles of the 405 freeway, from the 10 to the 101, were to be shut down for 53 consecutive hours while contractors demolished and rebuilt the Mullholland Bridge. Thankfully the contractors completed the project 17 hours in advance — go contractors!

As a fun publicity campaign, JetBlue–known for online innovations–offered a limited number $4 flights, including taxes and fees, from Burbank to Long Beach over the weekend. The idea of taking a 15 minute flight across town is a customary LA daydream.

On Thursday before the pending doomed weekend, Slate journalist Tom Vanderbilt casually asked on Twitter:

This tweet sparked a fast and furious revolution amongst cyclists and Vanderbilt, who together concocted a challenge: Wolfpack Hustle, a non-professional yet avid group of cyclists, would race two friends from the same Hollywood residence to Long Beach on Saturday, starting at 10:55 am. The cyclists had to adhere to all rules of the road–no offroading, running lights, or knocking over pedestrians–while the two friends would go to the Burbank airport and fly JetBlue to Long Beach. Whoever reached the Long Beach aquarium first wins.

SPOILER ALERT: The cyclists won. By a lot. They already reached Long Beach before the JetBlue flight took off. There are great details of the contest on Slate and the cyclists highlighted key minute-by-minute tweets on Storify and LA Streets Blog.

Besides this being a totally fun exercise, #flightvsbike, which became a trending Twitter topic, is a great example of how individuals can use social media to engage directly with mega brands. From a brand’s perspective, #flightvsbike shows how publicity campaigns create and extend conversations via social media. I’m sure JetBlue spent a good deal of money on this marketing campaign, not even including the extra flight costs. But did JetBlue really care if — or honestly think they could — beat the cyclists? Probably not. Regardless, the friendly contest gave JetBlue’s campaign extra press coverage, surely adding to their social media ROI.

Personally, I think every day in LA is Carmageddon. According my unscientific survey of Google Maps, as well as screenshots that friends are posting of the freeways on Facebook, it seemed like traffic over Carmaggedon weekend was at an all time low.

Congrats to @wolfpackhustle! Thanks for making Carmaggedon fun to watch on Twitter!

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