RFD, Freeport, GrahamSpencer & Two Degrees Of Separation
In the early 1960’s, iconic singer/songwriter Roger Miller was driving through northwestern Illinois when he saw a hand-drawn sign advertising, “Trailer for Sale or Rent.”
He pulled into a Freeport, Illinois hotel, grabbed his guitar and wrote King of the Road. The song became a five-time GRAMMY winner in 1966. 39 years later, it was the core of a groundbreaking GrahamSpencer campaign for Chicago/Rockford International Airport (RFD).
From Popular Standard to Campaign Concept
In 2005, GS creatively adapted King of the Road for a series of radio commercials promoting RFD passenger service. With permission from Miller’s publishing company, we transformed four verses of the song into catchy jingles for our O’Hare O’Hassle multi-media campaign, the positioning of which enumerated RFD’s advantages over the comparative chaos of O’Hare with its pricey parking as well as the ever-present, ever-time-consuming Rockford-O’Hare bus company shuttles. Enveloped by Miller’s familiar melody, the spots highlighted RFD’s advantages and set the stage for a successful marketing drive.
Example: FLYRFD :60 Radio, Jet Seats for Sale or Rent
Lyrics sung to tune of “King of the Road”
Jet seats for sale or rent
Airport parking – zero cents
No bus, no lines, no fuss
Flying O’Hare’s such a bust – Ah, but –
Time not spent in traffic jams
Buys two hours with my friends – I’m
M-i-l-e-s Ahead, no hassle
I – FLY R-F-D!
Intro fades to instrumental under
Announcer: Avoid the O’Hare O’Hassle and fly out of your Rockford airport. RFD is just minutes from your driveway, offers free parking, no long lines and no buses to O’Hare. Miles Ahead members enjoy rebates of up to $100 per ticket to hundreds of destinations worldwide. Membership is free and easy! Log on to FlyRFD dot com today for airline, ticketing and rebate information. Save yourself the headaches of O’Hare! Stop. Think. And FLY out of your Rockford airport.
Spot 1: Jet Seats for Sale or Rent
Spot 2: My Own Airport Can't be Beat
Spot 3: Denver, New York & Washington
Spot 4: Ain't on a Bus Half the Livelong Day
The music was performed in Rockford by rising stars Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons and recorded at Fuse Studio by Mark Muraski and Miles Nielsen (also bassist of the Sons at the time).
The Freeport Connection
In 2023, our GrahamSpencer team undertook the strategic rebranding of Freeport, a friendly little city just west of our HQ in Rockford, IL on the banks of the Pecatonica River. Informed and inspired by our GSearch research and planningprocess, the whimsical new logo captures the essence of the city’s livability in a way that would surely have appealed to a happy traveler like Roger Miller. There can be no doubt that he lived life at his own speed.
RFD Campaign Impact and Legacy
The O’Hare O’Hassle spots and other campaign elements reflected the intrinsic warmth of Miller’s song and connected it with the contemporary needs of Rockford region air passengers – while contrasting experiences with the airport’s much larger, busier counterpart to the east.
GrahamSpencer’s creative approach not only attracted more passengers but also significantly raised RFD’s profile during a crucial period of expansion into the air cargo business during which RFD became the fastest-growing air cargo airport in the nation.
Just as Miller’s overnight stay in Freeport produced a wonderful piece of art, we at GrahamSpencer found inspiration in that little city, too. Call us romantic, but we believe in the transformative power of connecting seemingly disparate dots. In this case, a simple hand-lettered road sign led to a timeless song. Decades later, King of the Road inspired a powerful advertising campaign – and demonstrated how two degrees of separation can spark remarkable, enduring success.
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