A History Of British Airways Advertising – Part 6

A look at British Airways’ advertising over the past 50 years as BA unveils a new corporate identity and introduces the first flat beds in business class at the turn of the century.

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British Airways Boeing 777-200 Project Utopia Livery
British Airways Boeing 777-200 Project Utopia Livery (Image Credit: British Airways)

Welcome to the sixth part of our series on the most influential and noteworthy BA advertising of the past 50 years.

We’re now in the late 1990s where BA unveils a radical new visual identity, prepares for the new millennium, and brings about a revolution in long-haul business class.

“The World Is Closer Thank You Think”

The unveiling in 1997 of BA’s new, and now ill-fated, brand identity was an act of 1990s excessive indulgence.

BA, with the assistance of the BBC, held an outside broadcast from 25 locations around the world. It featured the unveiling of new aircraft liveries by BA and its franchises and subsidiaries at locations such as Heathrow, Munich, Seattle and Victoria Falls. And as if that wasn’t enough, it was also supported by events such as fireworks at Sydney Harbour.

It was intended to be a full repositioning of the airline. It of course became famous for the “World Images” aircraft tail fins and the adverse reaction to them from certain quarters.

The unveiling of the new corporate identity was also supported by a new TV advertising campaign “The world is closer than you think.” featuring a new version of The Flower Duet remixed by Dave Stewart.

PJ O’Rourke – “Johnny Foreigner”

The adverse reaction to the “World Images” tail fins demonstrates the often uneasy relationship BA has had with its home nation.

In 1999, BA recruited the American writer PJ O’Rourke to poke fun at British eccentricities and give viewers a gentle ticking off for not being more proud of their de-facto national carrier.

(Many passengers would say in response that BA hasn’t always made it easy for itself to be loved.)

“The British Simply Know How To Travel”

How countries are perceived by their own residents and visitors varies widely and this is often reflected in airline advertising.

Here in 2000, BA used the strap line “The British simply know how to travel” in its advertising in the United States to highlight the clear difference between BA and US carriers at the time, as illustrated in this advert featuring British astronauts enjoying cricket and strawberries.

Club World – “A Sideways Point Of View”

At the turn of the century, BA introduced the first fully flat bed in long-haul business class.

Designed by tangerine, it featured a patented “yin-yang” layout of rear and forward facing seats that would convert into fully flat beds.

British Airways Club World Outdoor Advertisement 2000
British Airways Club World Outdoor Advertisement 2000
British Airways Club World Advertisement, Early 2000s
British Airways Club World Advertisement, Early 2000s (Image Credit: British Airways)

“Famous Faces”

The new Club World cabin was one of a series of investments in new cabins at the turn of the century, including a new World Traveller Plus cabin and revamped cabins in World Traveller, First and Concorde.

The sense of optimism at the the turn of the century and the prospect of “21st Century Air Travel”, reflected in the “Famous Faces” advert below with the soundtrack “Something In The Air” by Thunderclap Newman, would ultimately prove to be short-lived.

In Part 7: BA recovers from the events of 11 September 2001 and promotes it new Club World service designed around maximising sleep. Read more here.

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