Air war pits Euro RSCG, Leo Burnett

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Leo Burnett Co. and the Euro RSCG Worldwide network will square off next month in a contest for the $30 million advertising account of a new alliance led by Delta Air Lines and Air France.

The review, which is expected to begin in mid-January and to last only a week, pits the airlines' agencies against one another. Burnett picked up the Delta business last fall, while the Euro network took over the $39 million Air France account in June.

The formal launch of the still-unnamed alliance is set for the first half of next year. The venture also includes Aeromexico, and is likely to add Korean Air Lines. Along with pitching creative, the agencies may have a chance to suggest names for the alliance.

Air France and Burnett executives referred calls about the review to Delta; a spokesman for the airline said he had no knowledge of the review.


The cooperation agreement marks the fifth major global airline network set up since 1997, as the industry rushes to keep up with international business travelers. Such linkups allow airlines to tout themselves as global players while jointly selling seats and offering frequent-flier miles.

"There's a belief that you have to be globally connected to survive, and that's true to some degree," said Michael Boyd, an airline consultant.

The Delta/Air France-led venture joins the Star Alliance led by United Airlines and Lufthansa German Airlines; the Oneworld Alliance headed by American Airlines and British Airways; the yet-to-be-official Wings Alliance led by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Northwest Airlines and Continental Airlines; and the Swissair-led Qualiflyer Group.

The airlines within those alliances accounted for almost 50% of the world air-travel market in 1998, according to published reports.

The Star Alliance held a 16% passenger share of traffic, followed by Oneworld's 10% and Delta/Air France's 8%, just slightly ahead of the Wings group.

Of the world's 10 largest airlines, which control some 40% of scheduled passengers, only US Airways is not now in an alliance.


The cooperation fever began in 1993 with the agreement between KLM and Northwest, but has accelerated since the Star Alliance formed two years ago.

"It's marketing," said Adam Pilarski, senior VP at consultancy Avitas. "But once somebody starts, it's a defensive move."

The Star, Oneworld and Qualiflyer groups have all launched print-driven ad campaigns targeted to business travelers. The ads seek to "solidify brand loyalty," Mr. Boyd said.


In July, the Wings Alliance tapped Ogilvy & Mather, New York, for an estimated $50 million account, although ads are not expected to appear until next year when the group becomes a reality.

Burnett won Delta's estimated $100 million global business in September, which may give it an edge for the new account.

It was unclear which Euro RSCG agencies would pitch for the business. Jordan McGrath Case & Partners/Euro RSCG, New York, has Air France in the U.S., while Euro RSCG/BETC, Paris, holds the global account.

Copyright December 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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