Marketing guru reveals airline advertising secrets: in conversation with ISM’s Gary Leopold

Gary Leopold, ISM Boston

Gary Leopold, ISM Boston


According to ISM Boston‘s website, Gary Leopold, their CEO, “not only eats, sleeps and breathes travel, he knows it from the client side.” After having a conversation with him, one would appreciate the completeness of the sentence – and the man.

Not only has Gary led ISM Boston – a niche travel marketing firm – for almost 25 years, he has also been involved in the strategic planning for all accounts, one of them being Emirates Airline. ISM Boston recently won the Emirates account for North America after a review. He was gracious enough to speak to us about the unique challenges faced by airline brands and how they can succeed – both in the US and abroad.

In essence, Gary feels that airlines need to give autonomy to marketing agencies and push them to innovate – like Emirates does. Over the five years ISM Boston has had the Emirates account, they seem to have surpassed their own expectations on the quality of work produced for Emirates.

When asked whether US based airlines can ever regain their former glory, Gary believes that airlines here need to ensure consistency across product, service and the brands will become stronger. Moreover, they need listen to their customers, and come up with innovative ways (and probably new business models) to address their needs. When asked to recall an incident, Gary gets animated while describing how he doesn’t mind sitting on the tarmac on a JetBlue flight, since there is seat-back entertainment and he doesn’t need to miss his ball game. You can watch the full 20 mins video interview below.

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Showing 7 comments
  • Siturir

    I’m just dropping by to say that I very much liked seeing this post, it’s very clear and well written. Are you considering posting more about this? It appears like there is more fodder here for more posts.

  • TJ Corruthers


  • BreslowAaron

    I think that in the 21st century, companies who will have creative people on their board and an efficient customer service department, will probably be the leaders of the market.

  • JimmieBlake

    I don't see how any airline company would work if they didn't check business rating services to see feedback from their clients. When I want to travel with something, I always check the company's reputation, I don't just go flying with a plane hoping it won't have an accident. The companies can get over this crisis if they have creative men who bring more color to the sky, even if the one already picked if fine. Another perspective is needed.

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