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The Media Guy

We Said We Were Sorry on YouTube! What Else Do You Want From Us?!

It's Time For The Corporate Apology Channel -- a One-Stop Shop for Corporate Contrition

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If you're like me, you're super excited about the 100 new YouTube channels born of just-announced partnerships with professional content producers.

As Ad Age Media Editor Nat Ives reported, these are "high-polish, high-stakes original-content channels." Magazine conglomerate Meredith , for instance, is creating series including "Gardens of the Rich and Famous," about celebs' backyards; "No Man's Land," about women's answers to the "man cave"; and "Porcelain Thrones," about extravagant bathrooms. Of course, I personally have no plans to cut back on my viewing of non-professional YouTube content -- I can never get enough videos of cats palling around with horses , acoustic covers of "Hey Ya!" and footage of horrific skateboarding accidents -- so I guess I'll have to cut back on reading The Economist since there are still only 24 hours in the day.

But it strikes me that YouTube's new partnerships miss out on one huge and growing genre of professionally produced content: the corporate apology video.

JetBlue COO Rob Maruster took to YouTube to apologize for a plane mishap.
JetBlue COO Rob Maruster took to YouTube to apologize for a plane mishap.

Consider for instance, what happened in the aftermath of JetBlue flight 504 from Fort Lauderdale to Newark getting diverted to Hartford, Conn., on Oct. 29 due to bad weather. Passengers spent href="http://bit.ly/rpG1r8">nearly eight hours trapped on the tarmac before they were allowed to leave. For hours they had no access to water (it ran out) or bathrooms (they'd overflowed), and NBC Connecticut reported that "A paraplegic on the flight had a medical issue ... about seven hours after the plane landed. It was at that point that police and firefighters came onboard to render medical assistance." A transcript of the conversation between JetBlue flight 504 pilots and the control tower (available on NYCaviation.com) included this plea: "Look, ya know, we can't seem to get any help from our own company. I apologize for this, but is there any way that you can get a tug and a towbar out here to us and get us towed somewhere to a gate or something? I, I don't care. Take us anywhere." (For the record, U.S. Department of Transportation rules in effect since April of last year prohibit domestic-flight tarmac detentions lasting more than three hours.)

We're used to such trapped-on-the-tarmac stories by now, but geez, no water and no bathrooms, a paraplegic with a medical issue and panicking pilots? Heads should roll -- publicly -- at JetBlue, right?

No, of course not! It's 2011. There's a much simpler solution: Just issue a "social" apology.

That's what JetBlue Chief Operating Officer Rob Maruster did in a YouTube video posted early this month. How did he earnestly characterize JetBlue's eff-up? His airline, he said, did not "deplane" its aircraft in "our target time allotted." (So that 's what happened!) He added that "at no point this weekend was safety ever compromised." (Tell that to the paraplegic.) And of course he delivered an apology: "But let's face it, you count on us at JetBlue for a lot more -- and we promise a lot more -- and we know we let some of you down over the course of this weekend, and for that we are truly sorry."

Oh, and: "We can only earn your loyalty and trust one flight at a time and we ask you to give us a second chance."

Second chance? As Jerri Blank would say, that 's hi-LAR-ious. You don't need to click far to play a a 2007 YouTube video by JetBlue's then-CEO David Neeleman acting all contrite in the wake of passengers being trapped on a tarmac for nearly 11 hours. "I wanted to assure you as the CEO of this company," he said, "that the events that transpired last week and the way that they transpired will never happen again." He looked as though he was maybe trying to keep his lower lip from trembling. The video was titled "Our Promise to You."

The great thing about such videos is that they allow corporations like JetBlue to clap themselves on the back for having a "social strategy" for crisis response. Keep in mind that these videos are not only posted on YouTube but links to them are tweeted on Twitter and posted on Facebook!

The media still seems to think there's something extra special about such "social response," so the latest JetBlue mea culpa got in-depth coverage on CNN, The Huffington Post, ABC News and beyond.

Clearly there's market demand for such videos. In fact, I can think of all kinds of companies that should be making them.

And that 's why I think it's time for The Corporate Apology Channel on YouTube—a one-stop shop for corporate contrition.

Netflix could apologize for its subscription-fee hike and for Qwikster. Bank of America could apologize for its recent fee follies. Goldman Sachs could apologize for ... existing.

And YouTube parent Google could apologize for its buggy Gmail iPhone app.

Ultimately, I think there could be real synergy between The Corporate Apology Channel and other YouTube content. Think of how much cooler Rob Maruster's apology would have been, for instance, if he had delivered it while riding a horse and petting a kitten. And who wouldn't want to see Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein bashed in the head with a skateboard deck?

Ultimately, though, I want to reassure corporate America that no wronged customers will ever benefit from these videos -- because, of course, that 's not the point. The point is to get CNN, The Huffington Post and ABC News to report about your apology ... and then you can just continue on per usual. Like, if you're JetBlue, you can just keep falsely imprisoning customers every four years or so.

That's my promise to you.

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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