While it seems Ad Age might be suggesting JetBlue suspend it's advertising, the editorial really speaks to two non-advertising needs: Providing a great experience for consumers and being transparent. These are the two foundations upon which Word of Mouth is created in the age of social media.
“JetBlue is missing the point with its recent ad push. What it needs is to get back to what made it a media and consumer darling: customer service and good internal and external communication.”
“… convincing more people to fly doesn't seem like a smart move for an airline that has trouble handling the passengers it already has. It won't fool new passengers, and it will only upset current passengers. JetBlue achieved its success by being unlike the other airlines. Its good name spread -- via word-of-mouth and smart marketing -- because great customer service gave it a compelling story to tell.”
“Priority No. 1 should be getting back to a place where consumers want to share good stories. Take the money being wasted on that campaign and plow it into customer service.”
Advertising is and will always be critical, but it cannot overcome poor experiences. Advertising creates the promise, but if your brand cannot deliver on that promise, then you're setting yourself up for failure. Saying what you do and doing what you say is no longer a competitive difference but table stakes in the era of Facebook, Twitter, Epinions, Complaints.com, the Comcast Sucks and Taco Bell rats videos, and MyThreeCents, where people are complaining about JetBlue for everything from lost luggage to unannounced flight changes to unrefunded tickets.
Of course, as Abraham Lincoln almost said, "You can please all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you can't please all the people all the time." The goal isn't to prevent any and all complaints from reaching the Web, and trying to do so will cause attention and resources to be dedicated where they are not going to best use. All a brand can do is get its product and service right (not simply "right enough"), create a genuine brand using all the tools available to marketers, and engage consumers in the places where they're praising or complaining about the brand.
As far as I'm concerned, JetBlue's problem isn't with how or whether they are advertising, but with how they're using social media. JetBlue gets points for having a Twitter account, but they lose points for how they're using it. People are talking about JetBlue--both positively and negatively--but JetBlue isn't really engaging in the dialog. They're not thanking people for the compliments, nor are they apologizing for flight delays or addressing consumer complaints. Instead, as of today, the JetBlue Twitter account is more focused on the person maintaining the account than on consumers. You can read about the fabulous time "JetBlue" had in Vegas, or how s/he saw someone making out, or what state they're flying over--all of which provides zero value to consumers.
Walking the talk means more than just living up to your advertising promises. In 2008, it's also about being focused on customer needs wherever your customers are--even on Twitter! (Especially on Twitter!)