This article was first published in the summer of 2019 as part of a 100 part series on the history of British Airways and its predecessor airlines, Imperial Airways, BOAC and BEA. You can browse the full series of 100 stories in numerical order, by theme or by decade.
There is no client / advertising agency relationship that provokes more industry comment than BA and there is no more famous airline / advertising agency relationship than BA and Charles & Maurice Saatchi.
Saatchi & Saatchi, who were of course responsible for the “Labour Isn’t Working” poster campaign for the Conservative party in 1978, secured the BA advertising account in 1983.
Businesses can learn a lot from magicians. And from their earliest days Saatchi & Saatchi understood and exploited the power of illusion to create a desired reality in the minds of clients, potential clients, suppliers, potential high talent employees and the mediaChutzpah & Chutzpah
With a mixture of extraordinary self-confidence, vision and creativity, they were responsible for “The World’s Favourite Airline” slogan as well as many notable campaigns such as “Manhattan”, “The World’s Biggest Offer”, and “Where Is Everybody?”
The relationship with Maurice & Charles Saatchi continued following their move to M&C Saatchi in the 1990s.
In 2005, the relationship ended with Bartle Bogle Hegarty securing the BA advertising account after a new tendering process that M&C Saatchi seemed destined to lose.
M&C Saatchi did not let go of the BA account lightly. They took out a double page advert in The Times the following day championing their work for BA and advising that they are now “taking new airline bookings”.
They reportedly revelled in advertising industry gossip that BBH was initially having difficulty pleasing BA. Allegedly a letter was drafted headed “British Airways. Serves You Right.” with the text “Please feel free to use the strapline in your upcoming advertising. Alternatively, simply stick it to the wall and stare at it for the next few months/years.”
In 2007, Saatchi also remade “The Face” advert for the now defunct airline Silverjet “Every day, Silverjet, the world’s most sivilised airline brings a select few people together”.
However, it’s not clear at whose expense the joke was: BA’s or the client actually paying for advert.