The woman’s voice is soft and mellow.
“Go ahead, lean back, put your feet up,” she says. “And relax to some of the calming sounds of the airport.”
The calming sounds of the what now?
What follows is nearly nine minutes of low-key boarding announcements and musings set to a soundtrack of footsteps, crowd voices, keyboard-tapping fingers, rolling suitcases, planes taking off and landing, and other sounds typically associated with air travel. The audio is inspired by JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, and it’s the airline’s way into the YouTube trend of videos for autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR.
JetBlue posted the video, which it’s calling “AirSMR,” on its YouTube channel Monday ostensibly as a way to ease holiday travel stress, and it plans to promote it on other social channels.
“We loved the juxtaposition of taking what is often associated as one of the most hectic places during the holidays — the airport — and reimagining it to create a calming experience for travelers to enjoy,” Elizabeth Windram, JetBlue’s vice president of marketing, said in an email.
ASMR videos are meant to create a pleasurable sensation, described as tingly to the head and scalp, for people who watch and listen. The trend started to gain in popularity earlier in the decade and has since gone relatively mainstream.
JetBlue is the latest corporate brand to wade into the soothing waters of ASMR videos. Ikea made a 25-minute version in 2017 that Adweek called “one of the most satisfying ads ever.” McDonald’s put out a video the next year called “ASMR(ish) With John Goodman,” featuring the actor whispering about a Quarter Pounder over the sound of sizzling beef. And Michelob Ultra took the concept to the big leagues this year with an ASMR Super Bowl commercial.
Craig Richard, a professor and researcher at Shenandoah University who studies ASMR, said in an email that brands are realizing that “customers appreciate calm ads, which are soothing, instead of chaotic ads that are alarming and stress-inducing.” He was a consultant for the Super Bowl ad and worked with JetBlue to create the soundtrack.
He said the idea was to offer a “calmer interpretation” of sounds that might typically be interpreted as chaotic.
“Any jarring sounds — including squeaking shoes, coughing, random or abrupt thuds, beeps — were not included in AirSMR or considered a part of ASMR,” he said.
Also noticeably absent from the audio: Transportation Security Administration agents yelling about emptying your pockets at the security checkpoint, requests for volunteers to gate-check their bags because the flight is completely full and the weary toddler having a meltdown right before a flight boards.