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The "Smart Flies Aer Lingus" ad

“SMART FLIES AER LINGUS”. I sometimes fly Aer Lingus, but what does this advertising slogan, this linguistic trickery, this piece of ungrammatical acrobatics from The Branding People, actually mean? I’ve tried, I really have, for the past year or more, but the tagline is completely discombobulating.

I know what the “AER LINGUS” bit refers to, but I’ve problems with the “SMART” and “FLIES” bits.

Take “SMART”. Is it a noun? A type of person, or a specific person perhaps, a Mr Smart (noun), who flies (verb) [with (preposition)] Aer Lingus?

Who is this Mr Smart? A man from Billy Smart’s Circus? Billy Smart’s Circus isn’t Irish; we have our own travelling troupes – the Courtney Brothers, Duffys, Fossetts and so on – although Irish audiences would be familiar with Billy Smart’s Circus from the BBC (if you could get it back then) and their shows every Christmas if my memory serves me right.

Or perhaps “SMART” is an adjective. Or an adjective being used here as a noun, a bit like the way people say “The poor”, “The young”, “The unemployed”, “The Irish”. In which case why drop the definite article “The”? And why isn’t the “Flies” verb plural – “Fly”?

Why isn’t it “THE SMART FLY AER LINGUS”?

Or maybe “SMART” is an adjective after all, and “FLIES” is a noun.

FLIES (noun) that are SMART (adjective) [have something to do with] AER LINGUS???

If so, what exactly are these flies? Are we talking about the fly commonly found in your typical Irish homestead when you’ve forgotten to empty the compost bucket in your kitchen, or another one of the estimated one million species of Diptera insect?

Does “SMART” here refer to how the flies are nattily dressed? As in SMARTLY DRESSED FLIES… USE AER LINGUS? What is this attire? We should be told.

Or are the flies “SMART” as in displaying a streak of cunning?

Picture the scene: several flies get caught in the aircraft cabin during embarkation at T2 in Dublin Airport, then hitch a free ride all the way across the Atlantic to have a dalliance with their American cousins as the passengers “deplane”?

Somehow that reminds me of a punny, funny cartoon in the Monster in the Next Room blog.

Or perhaps the flies are the buttons or zip mechanism on a pair of trousers. But whose trousers? A member of the cabin crew? A paying passenger? I’m even more confused. It’s a bit like watching a trapeze artist in Billy Smart’s big top, all those dazzling twists and turns of the nouns and adjectives and verbs in the “SMART FLIES AER LINGUS” tagline so that you no longer know up from down or what’s what.

So how do the CREATIVES (here not a plain adjective but an adjectival noun) from the AGENCY sum up this slogan?

We developed the new brand film for Aer Lingus, the national airline of Ireland. Ireland is a nation of food critics, film critics, of kings and queens all blessed with the travel gene.

“It was filmed at Dublin Airport and the airline’s Hangar 6. It features a voiceover from Chris O’Dowd, stars real cabin crew and is soundtracked by a modern recording of the big band classic ‘Sentimental Journey’ by the Metropole Orkest.

I’m still none the wiser. All this nonsense about brands and nations and genes (genes???) and sentimental journeys and foreign orchestras. Let’s get real: last September Aer Lingus was – quite unsentimentally – sold and is now on a new journey as a subsidiary of International Airlines Group (IAG), the parent company of British Airways, Iberia and Vueling.

But if by “the travel gene” they mean the sentimental journeys of the past (the wave after wave of chronic emigration from our small island nation since the foundation of the State – hitting in particular the demographic groups and adjectival nouns commonly known as “the poor”, “the young”, “the unemployed”, “the Irish”), the creatives are totally absolutely smartly spot on.

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