KLM's centenary ad is also a nod to the progress made by women

Spot by DDB Unlimited features three generations of employees

Published On
Oct 09, 2019

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Dutch airline KLM is celebrating its centenary with an ad that charts both the progress made in aviation since 1919, and in society.

The spot, by Amsterdam agency DDB Unlimited, tells the story of three generations of women who work for the airline. The first, a little farm girl transfixed when early airplanes start to appear in the sky, becomes a flight attendant, as does her daughter. However, the somewhat emotive final reveal is that her grand-daughter, who also takes an early interest in planes, has become a pilot, and it ends with her captaining a KLM flight.

Esther te Pas, managing director at DDB Unlimited, says the agency treated the project like a "period feature film," adding that “we are telling a universal story which ends with a twist—hinting at how society has evolved in the last hundred years."

The film pays close attention to historical detail, featuring airplanes from KLM's history such as the Fokker F.II in 1934, the Douglas DC-4 in 1949, Boeing 747 in 1975 and today's Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner. Production company Pink Rabbit and director Ismael ten Heuvel bring the different eras to life with authentic uniforms, props and details from each decade. The narrative is also inspired by real life, says the agency— there are many examples of Dutch families with multiple generations of KLM employees.

The message of progress may strike some viewers as hypocritical, however, given the backlash it experienced earlier this year surrounding its treatment of a nursing mother on one of its flights. The mother had voiced her anger toward the airline after a flight attendant handed her a blanket to cover herself up while she was breastfeeding her daughter—only to be told later by the airline after she complained that the attendant had acted correctly. 

The ad is running on TV and in cinemas, in 90-second and 60-second versions, in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Brazil and the Nordics as well as in the Netherlands.