Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Not everyone has been able to write that sentence in recent years.

My United flight, though, was largely a pleasure thanks to the attitude of the United staff.

Not everyone has been able to write that sentence in recent years either.

I was, therefore, moved to hear that United has just released a new ad campaign, one that offers something of a mission statement.

I was half-expecting the tagline to be something like United Airlines. Mean-Spirited? Us?

Instead, the new ad is almost a throwback to a time gone by, when airlines presented a fantasy and passengers wanted to believe it.

Here we have people from all over the world playing United's Rhapsody in Blue.

Well, it was Gershwin's first, before United bumped him.

It's all perfectly palatable, in an instantly forgettable way.

Until, that is, a voice comes in right at the end.

"Connecting people," it says.

Instantly, I begin to shake on hearing those words. Different parts of my innards wobble in different rhythms, creating a pre-earthquake preparedness in my senses.

And then it struck me. 

Connecting people. The mantra so often uttered by Facebook. The mantra that proved to be as empty as the people-pleasing section of Mark Zuckerberg's brain. 

Has any phrase been more discredited in recent times than this? 

The world was supposed to be more open and connected. Now, we're desperate to hide and find some tiny corner of privacy.

Yes, just like on a plane.

We're shoved together in ever-narrower seats, with ever more tiny amounts of legroom and even more tiny bathrooms.

We don't want to be quite so connected as we are to the boorish business type in the middle seat. He's put his laptop on his tray table and is splaying out his elbows as he types.

Of course I'm being (only) slightly obtuse.

United wants to show that it's a big, worldwide airline that transports people to see other people. 

(I hear you mutter: "And when they arrive, the first thing they do is complain about the flight.")

But when United follows its Connecting People utterance with Uniting the World, I can't help but again hear Zuckerberg's grandiose, monotone pronouncements.

Don't claim you're uniting people, when everyone can see how divided the world has become and, dare I mention it, the role you might have played in it.

It's such a pompous politician's notion that people can be made to unite. 

Zuckerberg is only just beginning to discover this.

United Airlines, itself a symbol of mistreating human beings, might have avoided advertising puffery and been a touch more sensitive to it too.

Aren't we great? We unite people. 

No, show a little modesty for once. Don't have people playing your tune.

Think about how you'd like your customers to feel. And make an ad out of that.

Published on: Oct 25, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.