JetBlue and JWT Parting Ways

Agency Describes Split as Mutual

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NEW YORK ( -- JetBlue Airways and its creative agency, WPP-owned JWT, are splitting up, despite a four-year run marked by the airline doubling its footprint to some 60 markets and earning a dedicated terminal at New York's JFK airport.

"On the eve of JetBlue's 10th anniversary, we have mutually agreed that it is time to part ways," said Rosemarie Ryan, JWT's president-North America, in a note today to agency employees. "In 2005, at the age of five, JetBlue hired JWT with two objectives: A) help JetBlue grow in the next 5 years B) help JetBlue grow in the right way and make sure their unique culture remains intact," she said. "In the past five years we have done exactly that."

Forest Hills, N.Y.-based JetBlue handed JWT its ad account in November 2005 after a pitch against a handful of smaller New York agencies. Other shops on its roster include WPP's Mediacom and PR agency MWW, which it appointed after a review last year.

A JWT spokeswoman declined to comment on the split and JetBlue did not respond by press time.

The split comes just as the domestic airline is expanding its footprint globally via a codeshare struck this month with German airline Lufthansa, and it also follows reports by industry insiders that JetBlue has been quietly shopping around for other agencies.

If JetBlue opts to call a pitch for its account, it's a safe bet that any number of shops will be clamoring to participate -- even though the popular brand isn't a big ad spender.

Because JetBlue's marketing strategy leans heavily on the web and social media, its measured media spending has remained at a conservative $25 million for the past several years, according to TNS Media Intelligence data.

The low-cost carrier has been hailed a progressive marketer -- especially for the embattled airline industry -- with its fun style of events and its use of social media as a marketing tool. Named to Ad Age's list of America's Hottest Brands earlier this month, JetBlue has close to 1.5 million followers on Twitter and is building a following on a new Twitter feed called JetBlue Cheeps, designed solely to tweet limited-time-offer airfare specials to consumers.

This summer, it built buzz for its new routes from New York's JFK and Boston's Logan International to LAX by hiring YouTube celebs to tweet and post videos about the experience while flying on planes equipped with wireless internet.

JWT is responsible for JetBlue's "Happy Jetting" campaign, for which it created humorous ads and a website targeted at bigwig CEO's that have been forced to downgrade to commercial travel amidst the recession.

For the first nine months of 2009, JetBlue posted earnings of $47 million despite an economy that's hit the travel sector hard.

Contributing: Michael Bush