Southwest Adds TBWA, Los Angeles, to Roster

GSD&M Remains Partner, But Sibling Will Handle Fall Campaign

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Southwest Airlines has picked Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles to join its roster of agencies after a pitch that began in February.

The review is significant because Southwest looked beyond its agency of record of more than 30 years, Austin, Texas-based GSD&M, for a traditional creative ad campaign. GSD&M -- which is also owned by Omnicom -- remains Southwest's creative agency partner, but TBWA is understood to now be charged with a significant ad campaign slated to break in 2013.

"As our business grows, we wanted to proactively add to our strategic and creative agency resources," said Dave Ridley, Southwest senior VP-chief marketing officer. "TBWAChiatDay has shown through the review process that it will be an effective partner for us as we continue to tell our strong brand story."

Several shops were invited to participate in the pitch, which was managed by Santa Monica, Calif.-based search consultancy Select Resources International. GSD&M, though invited to participate, opted not to contend in the review.

The choice of TBWA, which unlike GSD&M is backed by a sprawling global agency network, could make it easier for Southwest if it decides to step up marketing of certain international destinations on the heels of its acquisition of Air Tran last year. Linda Rutherford, a spokeswoman for Southwest, told Ad Age in February: "As our business grows and service footprint grows ... we are looking to add to the agency resources."

The airline is a big ad spender compared with most of its peers. In 2011, Southwest spent $249 million on domestic measured media, up from $208 million in 2010, according to Kantar.

TBWA joins a roster that includes, in addition to GSD&M, WPP's VML and Wunderman, as well as Dieste. Dallas-based Southwest serves 73 cities in 38 states and operates more than 3,400 flights a day.

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