Italian style flavors Alitalia campaign

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Alitalia Airlines is set to break a campaign next month that capitalizes on Italy's image of being a somewhat wild frontier.

The estimated $5 million out-of-home and national print effort from Oasis, New York, attempts to portray the Italian airline as a passage to an unscripted experience where anything can happen.

This marks Alitalia's first image-awareness effort in several years and the first since Oasis won the account from Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, in 1997. Until now, Oasis' work has focused on aspects of the airline's service, such as the launch of its Magnifica Class two years ago or San Francisco-to-Italy service this year.

The campaign rolls out Dec. 1 in the New York, including a display in Times Square that will be up for during the millennium celebration on New Year's Eve.

BEYOND NEW YORK

Next year, the out-of-home segment moves to Alitalia's other U.S. gateways -- Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco -- while the print effort is scheduled to begin in travel and lifestyle magazines.

Though the somewhat-provocative campaign keeps Alitalia's recognizable 30-year-old logo, it features a new tagline -- "Let's fly Alitalia" -- and parallel phrases that use "Let's" to suggest what Italy and the airline may offer travelers.

In one ad with the line "Let's make a foreign film," a shapely woman's dress partly flies up as a man videotapes her. St. Peter's Basilica dominates the background.

In another featuring the line "Let's make a wish," a man and woman are on the brink of a passionate kiss while swimming in a public fountain. It's a reference to the well-known tale that tossing a coin in Rome's Trevi Fountain is a path to good luck.

INSPIRED BY MOVIES

Some inspiration for the creative came from such films as "Roman Holiday" and "Cinema Paradiso," said Paul Bernasconi, partner and creative director at Oasis. "A lot of it was fantasizing about what you would like to happen when you are traveling."

On the whole, airline brand advertising has struggled to find itself lately. Delta Air Lines jettisoned its "On top of the world" campaign earlier this year, while United Airlines said it would deviate from its "Rising" effort in new creative next year.

But unlike American carriers, European airlines may have a built-in advantage in the attractions and attitudes associated with their home countries.

"That's the best thing they've got going for them," said Bill Varner, senior director of marketing at consultancy Avitas.

In the case of Alitalia, there's the concept of la dolce vita, literally what Italians term "the sweet life."

" `Italianness' is universally known and universally loved," Mr. Bernasconi said. "It's an attitude, a philosophy of life. It's about exuberance, freedom, more fun."

The campaign is targeted at both business and leisure travelers. Mr. Bernasconi said business travel to Italy is generally viewed as business and pleasure.

CARVING A DISTINCT BRAND

Partly driving the campaign is a desire to carve out a distinct brand identity as multiairline alliances become the focus of the airline business. Alitalia, which will become fully privatized next year, belongs to the fledgling Wings Alliance and may soon merge fully with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, but felt brand identity still has a role in the rush to consolidate.

"With all the alliances coming together, it seemed [Alitalia] needed to look at branding more carefully," said Peyton Sise, Oasis director of client services.

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