A History Of British Airways Advertising – Part 8

A look at British Airways’ advertising over the past 50 years as BA ends its long-standing relationship with Charles and Maurice Saatchi.

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"Glide Through London Heathrow Terminal 5" Advert 2008
“Glide Through London Heathrow Terminal 5” Advert 2008 (Image Credit: Bartle Bogle Hegarty for British Airways)

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

We’re well into the 21st century as BA learns to embrace the internet, ends its long-standing relationship with Charles and Maurice Saatchi and moves to Terminal 5 at London Heathrow.

“Have you clicked yet?”

It may seem strange to think now, but when the internet first entered the public consciousness in the 1990s, airlines didn’t know what to do with it.

One of the most hyped websites of the late 1990s dot.com boom was lastminute.com which sells discounted flights, hotel rooms, and event tickets with late availability. 

And that’s how BA, which of course had well established distribution channels through travel agents, viewed the internet – a place for distressed inventory.

It took a while to get there but after securing the domain ba.com from Bell Atlantic, there was a realisation that it could be used as a primary distribution channel. It also allowed for self-service options so passengers arrive at the airport “ready to fly”.

“When the world zigs, zag”

In 2005, BA ended its relationship with Charles and Maurice Saatchi.

Bartle Bogle Hegarty secured the BA advertising account after a new tendering process that M&C Saatchi seemed destined to lose.

M&C Saatchi did not let go quietly. 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 all business class 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 that actually paid for the advert.

“Clouds”

This was BBH’s first TV advertising campaign for BA in 2006. 

You could say it was a very cautious, steady start. The advert featuring a cover of John Denver’s “Leaving On A Jet Plane” highlighting a commitment to service at affordable prices.  Some of the items featured such as complimentary short-haul catering are no longer offered.

“Upgrade to BA”

“Upgrade to British Airways” was the strapline BBH pitched to BA.

This film features a very familiar device in airline advertising. BA cabin crew hand out amenities to members of the general public in the attractive surroundings of Circular Quay, Sydney, with the intention of highlighting the thoughtful and friendly nature of its service.

“Attractive Prices”

These are very elegant executions of a simple message about the pricing of short-haul fares on ba.com.

“The Good Life”

This was an advert that was never shown, at least in the UK.

Featuring fish swimming through Terminal 5 to the sound of “The Good Life” by Julie London, it was intended to showcase the opening of Terminal 5 in 2008.

Before launch, BA promised its passengers Terminal 5 would be “So Calm. You’ll just flow through”. Although Terminal 5 did eventually deliver a significant operational improvement for BA, it was pulled due to its chaotic opening weeks.

“Terminal 5 Is Working”

In response to negative perceptions concerning Terminal 5, BBH developed a “live” campaign of press, radio and digital advertisements citing operational performance statistics for Terminal 5 from the previous day.

At the time, when social media was very much in its infancy, a “live” ad campaign featuring content gathered from the previous day was considered ground breaking.   More than ten years on where every airline is one tweet away from a worldwide media storm, it does not feel so immediate.

"Terminal 5 is working" Bartle Bogle Hegary for British Airways, 2008
“Terminal 5 is working” Bartle Bogle Hegary for British Airways, 2008
Terminal 5 is working - BBH for British Airways, 2008
Terminal 5 is working – BBH for British Airways, 2008

In Part 9: BA seeks to recover from the global financial crisis, delves into the past to relaunch its brand identity with the promise of “To Fly. To Serve.” and tells passengers not to fly during the 2012 Olympics. Read more here.

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