A History Of British Airways Advertising – Part 7

A look at British Airways’ advertising over the past 50 years as BA recovers from the events of 11 September 2001.

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British Airways Club World Sleeper Service
British Airways Club World Sleeper Service

Welcome to the seventh part of our look at some of the most influential and noteworthy BA advertising of the past 50 years.

We’re in the first decade of the 21st century as BA starts to recover from the events of 11 September 2001 and spends considerable time promoting its Club World long-haul business class.

“It’s Better To Be There”

When there is a degree of a return to normality following the outbreak of Coronavirus, a challenge for airlines is deciding the right time to encourage passengers to fly again, and adopting the right tone of voice.

One such example was a TV advertising campaign “It’s Better To Be There” from early 2002. This was BA’s first major advertising campaign after the events of 11 September 2001.

An American businessman is featured receiving pitches from British businesses. One despatches its proposal by post and conducts the pitch by telephone. As the American businessman promises to give it due consideration a rival team walks into to conduct their pitch face to face.

“There Are Other Ways, Then There’s British Airways”

Ever since low cost airlines gained traction in the UK, and significantly brought down the cost of short-haul travel, BA has been in a battle to highlight its relative benefits.

Here is one such campaign from 2003. Of course, the differences today are not so great. Low cost airlines have adopted many features of legacy airlines such as allocated seating. BA now charges for seat selection, and checked baggage on some fares. Complimentary catering was also withdrawn amongst great controversy three years ago.

The Orchestra

This is what is called, in advertising industry parlance, a “masterbrand” advert. It does not promote one single service.

Former BA CEO Lord Marshall once likened arranging all the different elements BA’s service to that of an orchestra.

Here a male passenger travels from New York to meet his family on a beach, accompanied by an orchestra every step of the way.

There was absolutely no expense spared. The advert was filmed in New York, London and Mozambique. Most scenes barely last a second and there are countless aerial shots.

Club World

When BA first introduced fully flat beds in business class, the over-riding emphasis of the new cabin was an environment that was conducive to sleeping.

BA introduced a “Sleeper Service” on many late evening red-eye flights from the US East Coast with pre-flight dining and a truncated meal service to maximise available time for sleep on board the aircraft.

The Sleeper Service is illustrated in these very effective TV adverts featuring passengers going to sleep in New York and waking up in London.

This is a textbook example of selling the benefits of a product, not its literal features.

Whilst BA initially enjoyed a competitive advantage with Club World, competitors started to catch-up.

In 2003, Virgin Atlantic introduced its “Upper Class Suite” with fully flat beds and direct aisle access for all passengers. In response, BA made some minor modifications to its seat which included a new softer mattress. Again, this is illustrated using non-airline imagery.

For some years, BA had the benefit of clear leadership position over its US rivals. However, they too began to catch-up.

This advert with the strap line “Business class is different on British Airways” was produced for the US market.

A businessman sits in his office in New York and items such as a glass of champagne are placed beside him by an invisible hand. This was intended to highlight the nature of its service that aims to anticipate individual passenger needs.

In Part 8: BA parts company with Charles and Maurice Saatchi and turns to Bartle, Bogle, Hegarty who help the airline recover from the chaotic opening of Terminal 5. Read more here.

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