Delta’s New Commercial Gets Success All Wrong

The airline’s message conflicts with what we know about the importance of sleep.

Delta’s new commercial “4 a.m.” has introduced yet another backward way to glorify sleep deprivation. The ad shows people rising well before the sun and preparing to head to the airport in the dark so they don’t wake their sleeping families. Meanwhile the voice of Viola Davis praises them as “early risers, go getters, and should-be sleepers.”

Image courtesy of Unsplash

We’re all for early risers and go getters. Some of the most successful people in the business world are early birds (like Richard Branson), after all. But the phrase “should-be sleepers” sounds the alarm for us. Getting enough sleep is far more important than the time you wake up. Just ask Jeff Bezos, who told Thrive that he makes getting 8 hours of sleep per night a priority.

Sleep is essential to an ever-expanding list of cognitive functions. It affects your decision-making and your productivity. It may even help your brain de-clutter itself so you can store and retain new information more effectively. Which begs the question, what’s the point in rising at an ungodly hour if your brain isn’t ready to perform at its best?

Contrast Delta’s approach with that of other travel-focused companies like United (their 2016 Polaris commercial emphasized how their business class seats are so comfortable that you can actually get a good night’s sleep in them) and Marriott, whose 2016 spots often focused on living in the moment while traveling. Or you could take it back to 2014, when Westin’s ads promised you a weekend of such amazing sleep that Monday wouldn’t feel like, well, Monday. That sounds much more enjoyable than trying to remember your toothbrush while fumbling around in the dark. Defining success by your willingness to wake up while the raccoons are still out doesn’t make you a savvy traveler — or ready to make the best decisions. So next time you’re thinking of booking that way-too-early flight, sleep on it first.