AIR NEW ZEALAND ADS AIM AT CYNICAL FLIERS, TOO: MEDIA BUDGET TRIPLE THAT OF 1997

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Air New Zealand, the latest airline to confront travelers' cynicism, today breaks its first national U.S. branding campaign with ads carrying the tagline, "Welcome aboard. Really."

Although the airline currently serves only the Los Angeles market in the U.S., the estimated $5 million effort from Team One, El Segundo, Calif., will run in national and local business magazines, with radio and outdoor in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Magazine ads show business travelers with furrowed brows saying things such as "The flight attendant couldn't stop smiling. What was she on?"

Hoping to increase its lure to business travelers, Air New Zealand also extended through mid-November an August promotional giveaway of 3Com Corp.'s Palm III electronic day planner to every business-class passenger.

`ALLOWS US TO BREAK AWAY'

The media budget is more than triple that of 1997, "which allows us to break away from a tactical approach and work on establishing the brand," said Ian Quartermaine, Air New Zealand's VP-Americas.

Competitor Qantas Airways spent about $3.5 million last year, Competitive Media Reporting said.

Still, "with a smallish budget, we had to get a campaign that broke through the clutter. The major concept that worked in the focus groups was the `cynical' one."

He acknowledged the campaign bears an unintentional resemblance to the "Rising" effort from Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, for United Airlines, a marketing partner with Air New Zealand.

Mr. Quartermaine said the U.S. branding effort came about as "the Asian economy took a hell of a dive and we decided to refocus back on the long-held markets of the U.S., Europe and Australia."

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