Mood Board: How Alaska Airlines put its quirky “Care Coalition” together

Mekanism breaks down the airline’s latest campaign, which stars Tan France, a Care Bear, a talking Snuggie, and others.
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Illustration: Francis Scialabba, Photos: Alaska Airlines

· 4 min read

Picture a Succession-style boardroom scene. Now, imagine the board members all having the personality of Ted Lasso. Also, the conference room is floating above the clouds.

That’s the vibe of Alaska Airlines’ latest ad campaign, “Care Coalition,” according to Max Eastman, creative director at San Francisco-based Mekanism, the airline’s creative agency of record. We recently chatted with Mekanism about how the campaign came together—and what’s next.

Paving the way: At the end of 2020, before Covid vaccines became widely available, Mekanism created a spot about Alaska's Covid safety protocols called “Safety Dance.” For the ad, Eastman wrote a rendition of the ‘80s song.

The success of that campaign, which got media attention from the likes of USA Today and CBS, inspired Alaska to embrace a more lighthearted tone in its messaging.

“It really helped Alaska see that when they lean into the core of who they are as a brand in a big, bold way, that’s where they find their sweet spot,” Mekanism managing director Lisa Townsend Zakroff said of the ad. “Because of the success of that campaign and the energy around it, we were able to bring them a campaign like ‘Care Coalition.’”

The campaign takes that playful tone to new heights, with a colorful set that uses VFX to appear to be floating in the clouds, and a cast that includes Queer Eye’s Tan France, the yellow Care Bear, and TikTok star Nick Cho (aka @YourKoreanDad).

Back to the future: The Mekanism team had two decades in particular in mind when they were brainstorming the campaign: the ‘50s and the ‘80s, according to Eastman.

Mekanism worked with comedians Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim of the sketch comedy series Tim and Eric Awesome Show to direct the campaign, but also make use of the duo’s world-building expertise, Eastman said. Together, the team landed on a “retro futurism” theme to design the set, he explained.

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The resulting scene? A boardroom with blue-hued walls and a pinkish-purple conference table that projects holograms from the center, surrounded by big, arching windows that look out onto the clouds. It’s “kind of like what the ‘50s thought the future would look like,” Eastman explained.

The team also drew inspiration from a couple of the brand’s ads from the ‘80s, which Eastman said have more of a comedic tone than some of its newer work.

Getting the band together: The team initially wanted to have one person embody “care” in the ad, but instead landed on a cast of characters.

Along with France, Funshine Bear of the Care Bears, and Cho, the coalition includes Snuggie (voiced by Wareheim), Mother Nature, Grandma, and Dog (a golden retriever, obviously, who was a very good boy on set).

The ad, which debuted during the Winter Olympics and also ran during the Super Bowl in San Francisco markets, centers around the cast debating whether they should allow Alaska to join the “Care Coalition” as the “most caring airline,” as France says in the spot.

Added elements: Pitching these stars and companies to appear as “icons of care” was easy, Zakroff said. Care Bears parent company, Cloudco Entertainment, even wanted to take its work with Alaska beyond one campaign.

Over the course of the year, the two brands will be working together on a larger partnership tied to the 40th anniversary of Care Bears, according to Zakroff. The team-up includes an Alaska plane that will feature Care Bears artwork, likely to fly this fall, and co-branded TikTok videos.

“Care Coalition” also has a TikTok component, the #AlaskaAirCAREoke challenge, which incorporates the Faith No More song that plays at the end of the ad. According to the company, videos using the hashtag racked up 4.5 billion views during the first two days of its debut, and currently have 7.7 billion views.

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