Airline alliance picks O&M for $50 mil effort

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The Wings Alliance has tapped Ogilvy & Mather for its estimated $50 million branding campaign.

The New York shop will likely develop a global campaign that positions the alliance--a cluster of four international airlines--as a customer-friendly travel network with linked flight schedules and frequent-flier programs.

The original review was winnowed to two agencies, said to be O&M and Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG. Last month, however, Messner sibling Euro RSCG Babinet Erra Tong Cuong, Paris, won an Air France global assignment and O&M won Northwest Airline's international account.

Messner then dropped out, and alliance executives reopened the review, inviting O&M and two others--J. Walter Thompson Co. and Grey Advertising, both New York--to present on July 6.

CONTINENTAL AND FRIENDS

The still unofficial alliance is believed to include U.S.-based Continental Airlines and Northwest Airlines, as well as Alitalia Linee Aeree Italiane and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. The group had made overtures to Air France, the last major European carrier not in an alliance. But the French airline joined with Delta Air Lines in a partnership in June.

Other partners, particularly an Asian carrier, could join Wings before the expected official announcement of the alliance's formation this fall.

A Northwest spokesman denied the alliance had selected an agency yet. A call to Continental Airlines was not returned by press time.

NORTHWEST CONNECTION

While Euro's win was a direct conflict, the alliance decided O&M's was acceptable. Its Northwest assignment is for U.S. advertising of overseas flights, as well as ads and direct marketing in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Wings alliance is part of the recent rush of airlines grouping integrated schedules and customer benefits as a way to boost traffic. Alliances also allow airlines access to markets they don't serve directly.

An accord between Northwest and KLM struck in 1993 helped usher in the era of partnerships.

Besides Wings and the unnamed Delta/Air France venture, other alliances include the Star Alliance led by United Airlines and Lufthansa; the One World Alliance spearheaded by American Airlines and British Airways; and Qualiflyer Group, which includes 11 European airlines such as Austrian Airlines, Sabena and Swissair.

The Star Alliance launched a print ad campaign by Y&R Advertising, New York, earlier this year. The Qualiflyer Group is expected to launch a TV campaign by Advico Young & Rubicam, Zurich, in international markets this month; print ads began in late June.

Contributing: Laura Petrecca

Copyright July 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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