KIWI AIRLINE LOOKS TO NEW AGENCY FOR LIFT;TROUBLED CARRIER WANTS TO DOUBLE ITS ADVERTISING

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Kiwi International Airlines, trying to mesh the concepts of low fares and luxury treatment, last week started looking for a new agency to handle an ad budget it plans to double this year.

The discount carrier that places flowers in lavatories wants to craft a brand image that reconciles cheap fares with its touch of class. The emphasis on brand advertising is being accompanied by co-marketing efforts with American Express Co. and Hertz Corp.

AFTER TURBULENT YEAR

These moves-plus a simplified fare structure and job cutbacks-follow rampant executive turnover in the past year, during which Kiwi went through four chief executives and as many marketing directors.

"A big step for us is redefining who we are," said Theodore Hutcheson, Kiwi's VP-marketing since December.

The agency review is expected to be a swift one, with a decision by Feb. 9. Gianettino & Meredith, Short Hills, N.J., has had the account since Kiwi got off the ground in 1992. The main contenders are Margeotes/Fertitta & Partners; Korey, Kay & Partners; and Deutsch, all New York; Dugan Valva Contess, Morristown, N.J.; and Long Haymes Carr Lintas, Winston-Salem, N.C.

ADVANTAGE KOREY KAY

Korey Kay, which had the Virgin Atlantic Airways account for 11 years until last March, appears to be the odds-on favorite.

"Gianettino has worked very hard for us, but I'd like to go in a different direction," Mr. Hutcheson said, adding that he intends to use focus groups and rely on the chosen agency to find a Kiwi niche in the industry.

$8 MILLION BUDGET

He expects the company's media budget to reach $8 million this year by devoting 4% of projected 1996 revenues of $200 million. Kiwi spent $3.2 million in measured media through September 1995, according to Competitive Media Reporting, and $4.4 million for all of '94, or nearly 4% of its revenues that year.

Mr. Hutcheson said he's developing "preferred partners" in AmEx and Hertz. Discounts will be offered through a direct marketing plan to AmEx cardmembers who've charged tickets on other airlines. With Hertz, Kiwi plans to put hang tags in its cars offering similar discounts.

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