A History Of British Airways Advertising – Part 10

A look at British Airways’ advertising over the past 50 years as BA turns to story-telling on social media and marks its centenary year.

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"To Fly. To Serve. Today. Tomorrow."
“To Fly. To Serve. Today. Tomorrow.” (Bartle Bogle Hegarty for British Airways)

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

In our final part, we’re well into the era of social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

These platforms have are a double-edged sword for airlines. They enable airlines to reach a mass audience without buying expensive advertising space, but they have to be shared with the public at large. Airlines are at the mercy of instantaneous and reactive judgements by audiences.

“Today, Tomorrow”

This advert from 2013 was an extension of BA’s brand relaunch “To Fly. To Serve.” but with a much more contemporary feel.  

The advert debuted ahead of the launch of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A380 at London Heathrow.  It features a passenger travelling through Terminal 5 to board a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  

The advert uses a “micro to macro” style of filming, featuring close up shots of the details of flying, panning to wide shots of the aircraft in motion.

The film is directed by Martin Krejci, with cinematography from Anthony Dod Mantle and features the soundtrack “Experience” (Starkey Remix), by Ludovico Einaudi.

“The Magic Of Flying”

“Look Up” was a campaign developed by the interactive agency OgilvyOne in 2013.

Interactive billboards in Chiswick and Piccadilly Circus would respond as a BA aircraft flew over it. OgilvyOne had installed antennae on nearby buildings which could identify overflying aircraft. Using custom-made software it would identify which of those aircraft were operated by BA.

A child would then point to the aircraft in the sky and the billboard would display its actual flight number and origin, highlighting the breadth of destinations served by BA. 

As well as generating a significant number of visits to the BA website and impressions on social media, the campaign won multiple industry awards.

“Red Bus”

The marketing of airlines to overseas visitors can often descend into cliched stereotypes.

Here’s a short film that looks at the start like it’s about to do that, but doesn’t.

Rooftop Cinema Club

Not strictly an advert, but a highly effective trailer shown before screenings at the Rooftop Cinema Club.

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A History Of British Airways Advertising – Part 9

A look at British Airways’ advertising over the past 50 years as BA seeks to recover from the financial crisis, delves into the past to relaunch its brand identity and tells passengers not to fly.

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British Airways "Taxi" Advertisement, 2012
British Airways “Taxi” Advertisement, 2012 (Image Credit: Bartle Bogle Hegarty for British Airways)

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

We turn towards the end of the first decade of the century. BA seeks to recover from the global financial crisis, delves into the past to relaunch its brand identity and tells passengers not to fly.

Opportunities

The collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 had a huge impact on BA.

The airline’s financial lifeblood, long-haul premium traffic, fell away sharply.

BA swung from a profit of £922m in 2008 to a loss of £401m in 2009. There were even questions as to whether the airline would survive in its current form.

Here is a very softly spoken advertising campaign BA ran 12 months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. 

It featured 9 films in total gently encouraging both business and leisure passengers to fly and pursue new opportunities around the world such as Mumbai Fashion week and the migration of wildebeest across the Serengeti.

The campaign was noteworthy in that apart from a reference to BA’s route network at the end of the voiceover, it does not make any specific reference to any relative benefits of flying BA, nor does it feature any visuals of BA aircraft or cabins.

Aviators

In September 2011, BA relaunched its brand by reintroducing the slogan “To Fly. To Serve.” which had been a long part of BA’s heritage. 

This advert “aviators” focuses the role of BA and its predecessor airlines in aviation history right from the very first flight on 25 August 1919. It is notable for its focus on the “hardware” of aviation rather than the softer aspects you usually see in advertising.

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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.

Continue reading “A History Of British Airways Advertising – Part 8”

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.

Continue reading “A History Of British Airways Advertising – Part 7”

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 look at some of 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.

Whilst 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 does vary 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.

Continue reading “A History Of British Airways Advertising – Part 6”

A History Of British Airways Advertising – Part 5

A look at British Airways’ advertising over the past 50 years as BA predicts a post-apocalypse future.

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British Airways Club World Cradle Seat
British Airways Club World Cradle Seat

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

To the mid-1990s where BA uncannily predicts a post-apocalypse future, gives away Concorde seats to Lapland and upgrades its Club Europe and Club World cabins.

“Where Is Everybody?”

We start with an advert from 1994 with scenes of the streets of London that would have been unthinkable more 25 years ago, but ultimately proved to be prescient.

Airlines normally advertise promotional offers with enticing images of the destinations on offer. 

This advert doesn’t do that. Instead, the viewer is presented with a post-apocalyptic vision.

A man wakes up to find an empty home, no TV or radio services, no rail services operating and empty streets as the entire city of London is deserted.  

On first view, it is only at the end of the advert does the viewer have any clue as to what it is for (if you watch it back you’ll hear the sound of an aircraft taking off at around 11 seconds in).

To present the viewer with such an uncertain vision was a brave way of conveying a promotion that could otherwise have been presented in a very ordinary and unremarkable way. 

“Do You Believe In Concorde?”

In addition to regular scheduled flights to Barbados and New York, BA used to operate Concorde charter flights to scores of destinations around the world.

At Christmas, Concorde used to operate special flights to Rovaniemi, Lapland. In a Christmas promotion, BA gave away 1,000 seats on Concorde flights to Lapland.

In a TV advert that says just enough, but not too much to spoil Christmas for many young children and their parents, a child when told by her father that he has won tickets to Lapland on Concorde replies “I don’t believe in Concorde”.

Club Europe Space Seats

BA’s current short-haul business class brand, Club Europe, was first introduced in 1988.

The cabin underwent a relaunch in 1994 as BA introduced wider convertible seats.

Continue reading “A History Of British Airways Advertising – Part 5”

A History Of British Airways Advertising – Part 4

A look at British Airways’ advertising over the past 50 years as BA addresses the aftermath of the 1990 Gulf War and tries to create a second London hub at Gatwick.

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"The Face" British Airways, 1989
“The Face” British Airways, 1989

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

We’re approaching the early 1990s as BA produces its best ever TV advertisement, the airline faces the aftermath of the 1990 Gulf War and tries to develop Gatwick airport in to a second London hub.

“The Face”

When the idea for what is possibly the greatest airline advertisement of all time was presented by Saatchi & Saatchi to BA, it is existed solely as a rough scribble on a single sheet of paper.

BA had asked Saatchi to prepare a new blockbuster advertising campaign. Saatchi presented two ideas, which by its own admission were fairly unremarkable, to an unimpressed client.

Saatchi then pulled a rabbit out of the hat. Out came a crumpled piece of paper bearing a sketch with the fairly unappealing sight of a disconnected smiling mouth, an eye, and a nose and a scribbled face.

But BA bought into the idea. And “The Face” was born.

The advert was directed by Hugh Hudson and filmed in Utah using local school children with a budget of £1m. Saatchi & Saatchi called on the choreographer of the Los Angeles Olympics opening ceremony to direct the movement of the participants. 

To the sound of “Aria On Air” by Malcolm Mclaren, the voice-over by Tom Conti, says “Every year the world’s favourite airline brings 24 million people together.”

Save for the roar of Concorde at the end of the advert, images and sounds of aircraft are entirely absent. The advert was seen by 600 million people in 70 countries.

“Arrive Home”

Part of the genius of Saatchi & Saatchi’s work for BA was the recognition that the claim to be “The World’s Favourite Airline” would not be enough to win the hearts and minds of passengers.

The airline had to show a human side as well. 

As anyone who has ever done any significant amount of business travel knows very well, it is nowhere near as glamorous as people think it is. Very often, by far the best part of any business trip is returning home.

These three print adverts from the early 1990s featuring small moments of business passengers returning home to be with their families recognise that airlines getting people back home is just as important as the trip itself.

British Airways "Arrive Home" Advert (Figures)
British Airways “Arrive Home” Advert (Figures)
British Airways "Arrive Home" Advert (Quarterly Results)
British Airways “Arrive Home” Advert (Quarterly Results)
British Airways "Arrive Home" Advert (Presentation)
British Airways “Arrive Home” Advert (Presentation)
Continue reading “A History Of British Airways Advertising – Part 4”

A History Of British Airways Advertising – Part 3

A look at British Airways’ advertising over the past 50 years as BA is privatised, introduces “Club World” and reflects “Wall Street” culture.

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British Airways Club World Ticket Wallet
British Airways Club World Ticket Wallet

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

The late 1980s was arguably BA’s “imperial phase”.

The airline was successfully privatised in 1987. BA was in no doubt that it had the potential, through its own routes, franchises and shareholdings in other airlines, to become the dominant player in global aviation.

Speaking in 1989, former CEO Colin Marshall set out BA’s ambition: “There has never been a global airline, in the truest sense.”

“Britain’s Highest Flying Company”

1987 was the year of “Big Bang” and the deregulation of the City of London, the film “Wall Street” starring Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko and BA’s privatisation.

Nearly ten years after the UK Government first officially announced plans to sell a stake in BA in 1979, the airline was fully privatised on 11 February 1987. 

This was the result of a huge turnaround in both financial performance and public perception. 

In 1982, the Financial Times quipped that privatisation of BA might lure some investors, but only because “every market sports a few masochists.” 

BA was of course a number of state industries to be privatised at the time. Whilst the British Gas privatisation was infamous for the “Tell Sid” adverts on UK television, BA’s was supported a huge marketing campaign around the world in the US, Canada, Japan and Switzerland. The initial share offering was 11 times over-subscribed. 94% of BA employees bought shares in the airline. 

Here is a rather self-congratulatory advert “Monument” from 1987, highlighting BA’s superior financial performance at the time.

“Pleasant Trip”

In 1988, BA introduced the Club World brand to its long-haul business class.

In an advert for Club World and a reflection of contemporary dog-eat-dog culture, a group of colleagues think they have set up a colleague from New York to fail by despatching him on a Red Eye flight to London “Like a lamb to the slaughter, gentleman”.

Continue reading “A History Of British Airways Advertising – Part 3”

A History Of British Airways Advertising – Part 2

A look at British Airways’ advertising over the past 50 years, as BA introduces its first long-haul business class cabin and trains its staff in “Putting People First”.

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British Airways, "The World's Favourite Airline", 1983.
British Airways, “The World’s Favourite Airline”, 1983.

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

To the 1980s with BA’s first long-haul business class cabin, revamped visual identity and its “Putting People First” training programme.

“Super Club”

Which airline was responsible for the introduction of long-haul business class depends on who you ask.

Both Qantas and British Caledonian Airways claim credit. In the late 1970s, BA introduced its own “Club” cabin on Boeing 747 aircraft for full fare economy passengers. This was effectively a curtained-off section of economy.

This would soon evolve into “Super Club”, the airline’s first dedicated business class cabin, introduced on transatlantic routes in 1981.

These were expanding seats in a 2-2-2 configuration with a folding table in the middle of each seat pair. BA claimed this was the widest airline seat in existence with 24 inches between arm rests.

British Airways Super Club Advert (USA)
British Airways Super Club Advert (USA)

The “Super Club” seat was extended to all long-haul routes worldwide, as illustrated by the 1984 advert below where the aircraft had to be opened up to fit the seat in it.

This was one of Saatchi & Saatchi’s earliest TV adverts for BA and you can see the cinematic influence. This was also one of, if not the, first uses of “The Flower Duet” by Léo Delibes from the opera Lakmé. This has been the effective theme of BA.

“Putting People First”

“Putting People First” was a training programme designed by Danish Firm Time Manager International for over 20,000 front-line BA employees.

The aim was to motivate staff “to enjoy giving good customer service to the airline’s customers, dealing with stress and difficulties, and how to make the most effective contact with people”.

It also had the aim of “enabling different groups of employees to appreciate and understand their interdependence upon one another for a congenial ‘people orientated environment’ which in turn forms the basis for focusing the airline’s attention on the customer and meeting his or her needs.”

It is widely credited with helping turn around BA’s image in the 1980s.

Continue reading “A History Of British Airways Advertising – Part 2”

A History Of British Airways Advertising – Part 1

A look at British Airways’ advertising over the past 50 years.

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British Airways - BEA & BOAC Merger Poster
British Airways – BEA & BOAC Merger Poster (Image Credit: British Airways)

As the next couple of weeks are likely to be very light for aviation news, it’s worth delving into the past to take a look at some of the most memorable and noteworthy BA advertisements over the past 50 years.

In some ways it tells the story of bygone era. The budgets for big blockbuster TV advertising campaigns have gone. Digital marketing and distribution channels allow for much more targeted advertising.

However, as well as telling the story of the development of aviation and business and social change, they do provide an insight into how airlines respond to industry crises.

When the time is right, we’ll no doubt see airlines using some the ideas featured to encourage passengers to fly again.

The Hard Sell

BA was formed in 1974 following the merger of British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) and British European Airways (BEA).

BA’s advertising in its early years was the very definition of a hard sell, using jingles and slogans such as “Fly The Flag” they were direct and forceful.

Here are two TV advertisements for BA’s turn and go “Shuttle” service and its “Super Club” long-haul business class:

Rosalind Hanby

Rosalind “Roz” Hanby was the face of BA throughout much of the 1970s and early 1980s.

Roz joined BOAC as cabin crew in the early 1970s and worked for BOAC and BA on the Boeing 707 and VC10 aircraft, as well as Concorde, before taking up a full time role promoting the airline.

Roz appeared in print and TV advertisements all over the world, including a BA billboard that featured in the James Bond film “Moonraker”. Roz left BA in 1982 to pursue a career in television.

Chutzpah & Chutzpah – BA & Saatchi

In 1983, everything changed. As part a radical plan to turn around the airline’s fortunes, Saatchi & Saatchi secured the British Airways advertising account.

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 media.

The “Manhattan” advert from 1983 was a radical departure.

This was the first major TV advertising campaigns Saatchi & Saatchi made for BA bearing the slogan “The World’s Favourite Airline”.

British Airways "The World's Favourite Airline", 1983
British Airways “The World’s Favourite Airline”, 1983

It was a quantum leap in ambition and production values. The whole campaign accounted for half of BA’s £25m annual advertising budget.

In a cinematic advert, directed by Richard Loncraine and produced by James Garrett & Partners, to the surprise of onlookers, the island of Manhattan is seen flying over suburban London as it is directed to land at London Heathrow Airport.

BA used the fact that the volume of passengers it flew across the Atlantic each year was greater than the population of Manhattan. By Saatchi & Saatchi’s own admission, they did not want to use shots of BA aircraft or cabin interiors.

Every year more people choose to fly with British Airways to more countries than with any other airline. In fact, every year we bring more people across The Atlantic than the entire population of Manhattan.

Continue reading “A History Of British Airways Advertising – Part 1”