African airline, McKinsey veer into cyberworld

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Even as consumer-targeted Web sites struggle to come up with a working business model, blue-chip consultancy McKinsey & Co. and South African Airways are set to unveil a portal this week dealing with all things adventure.

The site, veer.com, is expected to be unveiled at the World Travel Market in London and will feature travel information and e-commerce options such as personalized vacations to exotic locations called "frontier destinations."

The business will be operated by Veer, a separately branded joint venture between McKinsey and SAA, currently run by acting-CEO Judy Wade, a partner at McKinsey's Johannesburg office.

DIMASSIMO TO DO ADS

Veer tapped DiMassimo Brand Advertising, New York, for its estimated $30 million global consumer and business-to-business advertising account

The agency won the business in a pitch against DDB Worldwide and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, both New York, an executive close to the review said.

The name veer.com was selected to draw attention to the fact that the site offers travel options that "veer" to and from "frontier destinations" such as Africa and Australia.

A DiMassimo spokesman would not comment.

The tagline for the site's campaign, which will launch early next year in the U.S. and the U.K., is "A very different way to a very different place."

The launch comes at a time of heightened Web-oriented activity at South African Airways.

Though veer.com is a separate venture, the airline plans to relaunch its own site, saa.co.za, on Nov. 14 complete with an online booking engine.

Country-specific sites will then be rolled out in later months, including the U.S. site tentatively set for March.

In general, airlines have recently regarded the Web as the greatest thing since the 747 and made major efforts to entice consumers to book online, which trims their costs. For SAA, however, travel agents will continue to play an important role due to the nature of its customer base.

"With our market, it's harder to get people to book online for a 15-hour trip as opposed to a short-haul flight," said Roberto Cuesta, VP-marketing for SAA.

One testament to how critical the Web has become is that SAA is trying to gain control of the Web address SouthAfricanAirways.com, more user-friendly than its current address.

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