When you hurt someone's feelings, you don't get to decide when enough time has passed for the hurt to be revisited.

Air New Zealand has decided that enough time has passed since the tragedy at Mt Erebus in Antarctica in 1979 for the country to move on. Their new safety video, starring Hollywood actor Adrian Grenier, celebrates some of the great work been done by Kiwi scientific teams on Antarctica.

Some relatives of the 257 Erebus victims are upset about the video and the airline's poor communication with them. Air New Zealand seems to think they can tell Erebus families that it's time to move on. They can't.

This is a rare and very distasteful mis-step on the marketing front for an airline that usually manages its messages very well.


The airline's safety videos have won them a lot of free publicity over the years — and having sat through enough "traditional" safety videos produced by other airlines, I'm something of a fan of the Kiwi productions. Perhaps they've had so much good press they've become overconfident about their safety videos: certain of a warm, fuzzy reception.

There's an old marketing truism: Any publicity is good publicity. So even when people are saying you've done something badly, at least they're talking about you, underlining your importance. That's why, when Air New Zealand was criticised for its Sports Illustrated swimsuit-model safety video, they would have been happy to sit back and count the clicks.

But the public reaction to this Antarctic video should have sent a chill through their Fanshawe St offices. If it hasn't, they're misreading the public mood — making the same mistake that saw them release the video in the first place.

It's a big planet — and Air New Zealand flies to plenty of places on it. Could they really not think of anywhere else to feature? Like, maybe, a place to which they actually fly scheduled services?

How did a company that prides itself on its very modern communications, communicate so badly?