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Meet Southwest Airlines's new pitchman, Bo the CFO.
Tim Reason, CFO Magazine
August 1, 2003
Everyone needs their CFO. That's the gist of a quirky Southwest Airlines radio ad, featuring "Bo the CFO," who rushes to the aid of clueless employees around the country (using Southwest's affordable, last-minute fares, of course).
Bo hops a flight after Lois in Los Angeles calls to ask, "Are accounts receivable the same as accounts payable?" Then he's off to help Seymour in Seattle, who is confused by a voice mail about "spreading the sheet."
Trent Patterson, senior copywriter at Southwest's longtime ad agency, GSD&M, says the radio spot, designed to push business fares, has gone over well - he's rewritten it several times for airtime in different markets. Patterson doesn't normally interact with CFOs, and admits the jokes he wrote tapped "probably the only three things I know about accounting." Still, he says, Bo the CFO seemed the appropriate pitchman because "the ultimate endorser of inexpensive business fares would be the CFO."
"Any CFO worth his salt is always looking for ways to save money," agrees Southwest's own CFO, Gary Kelly. Does Kelly field the same sorts of calls as Bo? "Finance is a little intimidating for some people, so yes, you definitely run into those kinds of questions."
Unlike Bo, however, Kelly has the benefit of a finance organization centralized in the airline's Dallas headquarters. So although he is a frequent flier ("always on Southwest," he quips), he wasn't the inspiration for the ad. "I don't have the same kind of situation that Bo was facing," he says.
Indeed, Southwest continues to defy the trends in the struggling airline industry. It added 4 percent capacity this year and, after a lull in travel leading up to the war in Iraq, saw its year-over-year traffic numbers for June improve. Such carriers as Continental Airlines and American Airlines, meanwhile, saw their traffic continue to fall. Could it be that Bo the CFO actually works for one of Southwest's competitors?
"It's black numbers bad, red ones good, right?" asks Sandy in San Diego. "I'll be on the next flight," says Bo with a sigh.
The latest sign that you've made it into the annals of dubious achievement? Getting your very own suit and rank in a deck of playing cards.
That distinction is no longer just for Iraqi fugitives. The Stacked Deck LLC (www.thestackeddeck.com), of Atlanta, recently issued a deck of playing cards that contains caricatures of corporate executives who have been involved — or at least associated — with corporate frauds and failures.
The goal of the deck, says company co-founder Douglas Quinby, is to educate people through humor. "It allows them to engage in a fun way in what is a pretty serious set of issues," he says.
The deck includes a number of former finance executives, including WorldCom's Scott Sullivan, who is pictured as the King of Hearts; Tyco's Mark Swartz, the Queen of Diamonds; and Adelphia's Tim Rigas, who is featured on the 3 of Diamonds. As the 10 of Spades, it could be argued that former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow wasn't given proper billing. "We gave a lot of thought to the suit and rank of each person," says Quinby. "He's a face card, but he probably does deserve a higher card." Martha Stewart makes an appearance as — what else? — the Queen of Hearts. And even Harvey Pitt, former SEC chairman, is immortalized as the Joker.
Quinby says he got the idea for the cards from his father, who, he says, "watches too much CNBC." After hearing about the cards devoted to the "most wanted" Iraqi officials, his father noted that there were a lot of criminals right here in the United States.
Investors might find a good use for the cards: gambling on the executives that gambled with their fortunes. "Hey, is that a Ken Lay up your sleeve?"
CFOs on the Move
David J. Anderson has joined Honeywell International Inc. as CFO. The former CFO of ITT Industries Inc. succeeds Richard Wallman, who is retiring. Edward W. Williams has been promoted from corporate controller to fill the vacant CFO spot at ITT.... Newell Rubbermaid Inc. has tapped J. Patrick Robinson to fill the CFO role that will be left open by the retirement of William T. Alldredge at the end of the year.... Human-resources-solutions provider Exult Inc. has named John Adams CFO. He was formerly CFO of At&T's business-services division....