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Airlines' campaigns take flight amid turbulence

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Commercial airlines, which have been particularly hard hit during the recent rough economic times, are taking an aggressive stance through new advertising campaigns that tout their benefits and services. Cuts to corporate and leisure travel budgets, rising fuel prices and pilot strikes are just a few of the problems that have plagued airlines in recent years, causing revenue, profits and stock prices to sharply decline. American Airlines' stock price, for example, fell from more than $40 a share in early 2007 to $2.65 a share in trading on the New York Stock Exchange last week. JetBlue Airways' stock declined from more than $16 a share in 2007 to $4.50 last week. And British Airways, which started trading as International Airlines Group on the London Stock Exchange in January after merging with Spain's Iberia Airlines, saw its stock price go from more than £500 a share in 2007 to £279 on its last day of trading in January. Since then, International Airlines Group's stock has dropped from £289 a share on its opening to £168 a share last week. In an effort to improve business, these airlines have all undertaken new ad campaigns in the last two months to better position their brands and attract business and leisure travelers. “It has been a difficult few years in the aviation industry, but British Airways has come out stronger, and this new campaign signifies a new chapter for the airline,” said John McDonald, VP-marketing. On Sept. 28, British Airways launched a new brand campaign with the tagline “To fly. To serve,” created by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, London. The budget for the campaign, which includes TV, print and online ads, was not disclosed. “This is our first major brand campaign in more than 10 years and allows us the opportunity to show our commitment to our customers,” McDonald said. “British Airways has always been a strong brand, but we wanted to tell our unique story a little louder and to a wider audience. We believe British Airways is special because of its people, expertise and heritage, and because we put the customer at the heart of everything we do.” The campaign features British Airways employees and shows how the airline is committed to customer service, from the training of its cabin crews to improvements in the travel experience in the air and on the ground. Concurrent with the ad campaign, British Airways announced it would invest £5 billion (approximately $7.8 billion) over the next five years on customer products and services, including new aircraft, upgraded first-class cabins and improvements to airport lounges around the world. This also marks the first time British Airways has used social media to launch a marketing program, debuting its first video on its Facebook page. It also is running the spots on YouTube. Also in September, American Airlines debuted a new TV campaign designed to show how it offers a seamless travel experience for its customers. The campaign, with spots called “After School,” “Scuba” and “Music,” was developed by TM (formerly Temerlin McClain) Advertising, Dallas, and shows how the airline provides services to improve the customer experience for business and leisure travelers. “Our objective with these ads is to convey the ongoing focus we have on our customers' travel experience, including the many ways our most-well-traveled customers stay connected throughout the travel process with American's products and services,” said Rob Friedman, VP-marketing. “The ads are permeated with optimism to resemble the travel experiences of our most frequent customers, who are power users of cutting-edge tools like our mobile boarding pass, in-flight Wi-Fi, flight status notification and priority access.” For example, the spot called “After School” shows a mother talking to her daughter about the school day, and at the end of the spot it is revealed that she's using Wi-Fi aboard an American flight. The campaign budget was undisclosed. JetBlue Airways last month kicked off a campaign in the Boston market. It's part of JetBlue's ongoing campaign “You Above All,” aimed at business travelers. Mullen, Boston, developed the campaign, which includes TV, print, online, out-of-home and mobile ads. The budget was undisclosed. “We have a large operation in Boston, with more nonstop flights out of Boston than any other airline,” said Fiona Morrisson, director of brand and advertising at JetBlue. New York-based JetBlue is focusing on expanding its business in Boston, the Caribbean and Latin America, Morrisson said. Ads broke last month in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The Boston campaign is intended to position JetBlue as an airline that focuses on the needs of business travelers, no matter which class they are in. “Whether you're in row 2 or row 20, we are focused on giving you a great experience on JetBlue,” Morrisson said. “We think of the business traveler not necessarily the way other airlines think of the business traveler—a high-finance guy who travels a million miles a year—but recognize that most business travel in the U.S. is done in economy or coach.” The ads showcase such JetBlue features as extra legroom, TV service for every seat and more nonstop flights. “Advertisingwise, Boston is a bit of a petri dish for us. We'll see what kind of responses we get and how the campaign works [before rolling it out to additional markets],” Morrisson said.
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