Web Site Solicits Consumer Photos, Stories and Videos

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NEW YORK ( -- American Airlines wants to hear about why you fly. Just don't send your woes of delayed flights and bad meals.

As part of its new branding strategy,

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the Ft. Worth, Texas-based carrier on Sept. 13 launches a new Web site that will collect written stories, picture and videos from customers who want to describe their flying and travel experience. The interactive effort feeds the theme established by the new tagline, "We Know Why You Fly," which will be the centerpiece of a $60 million bilingual marketing initiative over the next 18 months.

Information gathering
With the Web site,, the airline will do a little bit of actual information gathering to build its knowledge. Prior to the site's launch, American officials had been looking at submissions about flying from employees, and they are considering expanding one story into a TV spot.

The site, which features also features travel tips and a searchable database of travel information, is designed to bolster brand awareness and drive traffic to the airline's Web site,

Major branding effort
The new campaign, developed by TM Advertising, Dallas, a unit of Interpublic Group of Cos., is the airline's first major branding initiative in more than a decade and its development has been marked by intense coordination among TM, the marketer and its Hispanic and African-American agencies, said Steve Schlachter, director of worldwide advertising for American.

"This is the first time we've had it sufficiently coordinated that it's all launching at the same time," Mr. Schlachter said. American's Hispanic agency is Zubi Advertising of Coral Gables, Fla., and its African-American agency is GlobalHue of Southfield, Mich.

The new positioning is attempt to get past the pricing wars that have dominated the marketplace at least since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which served to deepen the woes of an already ailing industry. A few major carriers are either in or on the brink of bankruptcy.

Humorous commercials
Featuring the employees and customers, the new TV ads depict omniscience on the part of American employees when it comes to its customers needs and worries. The humorous commercials mark a "conscious shift" away from the tone of previous American spots, which were more empathetic and heroic, said Bill Oakley, group creative director at TM.

One branding expert suggests that the new tagline and approach could open some doors the airline doesn't want to enter.

"It's a bit presumptuous," said Bill Larsen, client director at WPP Group's Landor Associates. "Airlines are under a lot of pressure to know their customers and, the fact is, they don't."

He added that the Web site could end up netting the airline "a lot of negative stories about travel experiences."

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