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By Published on .

Japan Air Lines is breaking a $5 million ad campaign that targets U.S. business travelers, a new maneuver for the carrier.

The advertising has two missions: counter competition from U.S. flights to Asia that bypass Tokyo and boost business beyond a core of loyal Japanese executives.


The campaign, from DCA, New York, broke Sept. 9 and stresses JAL's on-time service, cabin amenities, cabin cleanliness and frequent-flier programs. The theme-"Your needs. Your airline"-centers on testimonials from U.S. frequent fliers who are JAL customers.

Mark H. McCormack, founder and CEO of International Management Group, kicked off the campaign; Grammy Award-winning record producer Russ Titelman will be featured in the second ad. Executives for the third and fourth ads haven't been disclosed.

The print ads are running in national business publications, newsweeklies and USA Today. A TV spot will break Oct. 5 on NBC's telecast of the JAL-sponsored Big Apple Classic golf tournament.

"The new advertising is a defensive move on JAL's part to keep its market share from draining," said Glenn Engel, a financial analyst at Goldman Sachs & Co., who questioned the switch's impact.

"U.S. business travelers pick the airline that is most convenient for them," Mr. Engel said.


This past summer, Cathay Pacific Airways and United Airlines started direct U.S.-to-Hong Kong flights, and seats have been sold out. JAL offers direct flights to Japan, then on to other destinations in Asia-after about a 3-hour stopover. Currently, flights from the U.S. to other points in Asia besides Tokyo are the fastest-growing routes in the airline industry.

"JAL created its new image campaign to highlight the services that the American business traveler needs and demands," said Toshihiro Mizuno, JAL's VP-marketing, American region. "We did lose demand to other carriers and we needed to do something. We are trying to be competitive, not just with price but superior service."

Although challenging interlopers may be his immediate goal, Mr. Mizuno wants to increase the airline's U.S. business customer base for the longer term. While JAL is popular among Japanese travelers, who account for 80% of its passengers, American passengers generally prefer U.S.-based airlines.

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