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By Published on .

Continuing its dual brand/retail ad approach, British Airways broke its first national campaign in the U.S. last weekend, offering a free city destination on a European flight.

The commercial in the estimated $2.5 million effort from M&C Saatchi, New York, is set as a faux historic film showing people covering themselves in lard to swim the English Channel. It offers travelers a choice of 10 cities as a free, second destination. The effort uses quirky humor similar to the "Where is everybody?" campaign about a man who wakes up in an empty city.


The commercial will run through this week on cable and national spot TV across all regions of the U.S. simultaneously, the first time British Airways has done so. Normally, the airline advertises regionally to support its fares. The spot also will air on network TV, including ABC's "NFL Monday Night Football." National print in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal is planned, along with major city papers and radio.

"The campaign is part of our ongoing strategy to do retail advertising that supports the brand," said agency President Brent Bouchez.

"It isn't easy but it can be done," David Charlton, U.S. VP-central marketing at British Airways, said about the dual strategy. The ongoing campaign for "WorldOffers [fares] proves it can be done. It did generate sales, softened our image a bit and showed how many places we fly."

At the same time, British Airways is running in the U.S. a spot through August created by M&C Saatchi, London, supporting a promotion that gives 150 discount fliers a chance to ride the Concorde.

"The idea is if you're flying this summer, book us and you've got a chance to ride the rocket," Mr. Charlton said. "Here's one more reason to fly us -- it generates share, not demand."

The interchangeability of the work created by M&C Saatchi's New York and London offices -- where one agency's ads run in the sister shop's country -- is uncommon, Mr. Charlton said, noting "there is more sharing/stealing than is usually done" between offices in two countries.

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