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The Gregorash aviation story as TV drama: In review

ozz3Across the Web, businesses are trying to find new and different ways to catch their clients’ attention. But arguably no one in the aviation industry has gone to the lengths of Gregorash Aviation.


February 27, 2009
By James Careless
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Across the Web, businesses are trying to find new and different ways to catch their clients’ attention. But arguably no one in the aviation industry has gone to the lengths of Gregorash Aviation, which hired Winnipeg’s Ozz Media to tell its corporate history as a series of short dramatic TV vignettes. Posted on: www.gregorashaviation.com, the videos are based upon the actual creation and evolution of Gregorash Aviation out of the remains of Standard Aero’s piston engine servicing division, to today’s umbrella corporation that owns and operates Aero Recip (Canada and Alaska), Airparts Network, Ultimate Oil Coolers, Cantherm Distributors and Dyno Power Xperimental.

The Gregorash story is told in three black-and-white shorts with actors playing CEO Alvin Gregorash and his daughter Tracey at various key points in the company’s growth. There are also cameo appearances by historically relevant characters and an overarching on-camera narrative by Ozz Media founder/owner John Pineau.

As strange as it may seem to turn a piston engine maintenance company’s history into television drama, the approach grows on you. Wisely, each vignette focuses on the human drama associated with Gregorash Aviation’s history; getting its first client, expanding into Alaska, and as a final irony, considering moving into turbines after making its mark as a piston-only company. In doing so, the video casts the Gregorashes as just regular folks, with no pretensions or high-falutin’ statements. It’s a wise move; by the end of the series, the viewer not only feels that they know them, but likes and trusts them too.

“I give the credit for making this series of videos to my daughter Tracey and John Pineau,” says Alvin Gregorash. “They put together something completely different from anyone else in the aerospace industry.”

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A Different Approach

    The Gregorash historical vignettes are just one of this web site’s unique features. Another is the song “SkyScrapin,’” a custom theme that opens and closes the videos that was written and performed by Pineau with the help of “Dudes from Nashville & the 'Peg,” says the website.

    That’s not all. Also found on the Gregorash site is a text version of the company’s history called Sky Scrapin’ that – like the videos – is billed as being “Fairly Correct” in terms of its historical accuracy. Here’s a sample of its prose, with Alvin Gregorash basically playing a classic Jimmy Stewart role. In this scene early on, Gregorash is trying to get bank money to build Standard Aero’s piston division to form Aero Recip. The banker – a young bloodless type that always seem to plague Jimmy Stewart – is not sympathetic to his plans.

[start of excerpt] “So, Alvin,” Bradley said, sitting down and looking at the papers in front of him.
    The young man looked uncomfortable in his suit-store business suit, like he was trying to look business-like, and was aware that he was failing. “What’s the name of the company?” he asked, moving the documents closer to his face as he shuffled through the papers.
    “Aero Recip,” Alvin said proudly, moving closer.
    There was a pause, the young banker staring at Alvin. “What’s that mean?” he blurted, his chest puffing up like a peacock.
    “Recip is reciprocating engines, Brad, and Aero is aero,” he said, not disguising that he had stated what he thought was fairly obvious. “Aeronautics,” he elaborated, realizing his tone was a little terse. He always reacted that way to arrogance, especially the camouflaged arrogance of the uninformed.
    “It’s Bradley, but that’s neither here nor there. I’m not sure there’s much here for us Alvin.”
    This time it was Alvin’s turn to pause. “You haven’t even looked at it.”
    The young banker moved forward, and placing his elbow on the desk, said, “Look. I’ve been at this now for two years and I can tell you. . .”
    “Two years? You barely shave, and now you’re telling me you know my market without even looking at the damned plan?”
    “Look, there’s no need to swear Mr. Gregorash. We pride ourselves in service around here. We carefully consider every applicant . . . .”
    Alvin abruptly rose to his feet. “You haven’t even introduced yourself. Service? Like hell service. You don’t know what the word means. You may as well take that plan and… ” Alvin cut his sentence short, knowing he needed to stop and walk away.
    His temper was getting the best of him, and for good reason. This guy was not going to be the man to give him his loan. “Good luck in your career sir,” he said, his heart pounding rapidly. Alvin was ready to punch him in the head, his temper flaring, as it often did when faced with Brad’s type. Instead he forced a cold smile and turned away. [end of excerpt]

The story and videos noted above are not all that is on Gregorash Aviation’s promotions site (all of which are downloadable). There are also more conventional features such as a newsletter, technical tips, and a feedback form. But taken as a whole, this site is exponentially different from other MRO websites, anywhere in the world.

Why the Difference?
“We wanted to do something a little bit different in promoting our company,” explains Tracey Gregorash, when asked why her company paired with Ozz Media to create the videos and story. “By turning our history into something that people could experience as TV or a short story,  we deliberately put it into forms that potential customers could connect to more emotionally. Using emotional connections, linked with facts, makes our story more memorable to them, and makes us stand out in their minds as characters they can relate to. That has got to make a difference at sales time.”
“We dig deep to find the best story for your company and its brands, create a customer-feedback portal and attach it to your web site, and then we make customers aware,” explains Pineau when asked about his overall promotional approach. “This forms interactive relationships. Doors are essentially opened, making it easier for sales teams to sell.”

Analysis
It is an unwritten rule of journalism that the writer never steps out from ‘behind the curtain,’ to allude to the Wizard of Oz. But in this case, I feel the need to do so for a few (hopefully) valid reasons.

John Pineau’s emphasis on telling corporate stories in human terms is an approach that I have used successfully as a full-time freelance writer for 25 years. Simply put, people like to read about heroes and human struggles that they can identify with; not faceless widgets, EBITDAs and air-filled ‘mission statements.’ After all, every person’s life is built upon a mix of drama and comedy; no matter what they do for a living. It is this truth that allows people to understand each other through stories, and why stories that are based in human struggle invariably interest people more than dry recitations of facts. Put another way, this is why fiction sells better than nonfiction. The few nonfiction writers who have grasped this fact, such as Pierre Berton in his entertaining but detailed histories of Canada, have met with great success.

This series of historical vignettes are a credit to Pineau’s style: He keeps the characters’ dialog spare and humble; telling the Gregorash story with the right points and emotions without going over the top or preaching. (The fact he bills the videos and text as ‘fairly correct’ is a nod to creative license.)  Compare this to the too-many-to-count corporate websites online today declaring that such-and-such company is the “World’s Best…” in high-flown egomaniacal praise that God would blush to hear applied to Himself, and Gregorash’s video vignettes are actually a welcome relief.

Aviation companies in general would be wise to study Gregorash Aviation’s decidedly-different way of promoting itself. The point it makes – that you don’t have to do the same tired old corporate promotion just because you happen to be promoting a corporation – is worth acting upon.