KIWI GIVES SAFETY THEME A LIFT IN ADS;ONCE FLYING, VALUJET MAY ALSO

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To quell growing consumer concerns about air safety, discount carrier Kiwi International Airlines is cutting back on fare-oriented ads to tout the established airlines' growing emphasis on experience.

Kiwi is highlighting safety and experience in a new $8 million campaign hitting national magazines July 22 and moving into spot TV later this year.

The new approach will be a reverse from fare-oriented ads and the lighthearted Kiwi bird mascot introduced this spring, both from Long Haymes Carr, Winston-Salem, N.C.

`HURT BY VALUJET'

"It's no secret we've been hurt by this ValuJet tragedy," said Tad Hutcheson, Kiwi's VP-marketing. "There's been so much hype that the public perception is that discount airlines are unsafe. We've had to distance ourselves from that."

After a Federal Aviation Administration inspection raised questions about flight manuals, part of Kiwi's fleet was grounded in mid-June. The airline expects to have all 15 of its planes back in service this month, up from the current 11.

Completely grounded after its crash in May, ValuJet hopes to be up and running again by August, awaiting FAA approval. It is uncertain how the airline will market itself then.

Industry observers speculate that, like Kiwi, ValuJet will tone down its lighthearted image-in-house created ads have featured cartoon characters Captain Value and the smiling airplane Critter. The airline declined comment.

It has long been an unwritten rule among airlines to avoid addressing safety in ads, but Kiwi's new ads will proudly proclaim a "perfect safety record."

Trans World Airlines hopes to create an air of safety with its current campaign, from D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, St. Louis, which celebrates 50 years of service over the Atlantic.

TWA: `SAFE, SOLID'

"The hope is that the emphasis will [convey to] the customer that since TWA has been around a long time that we are safe, solid and reliable," said Beth Mack, TWA VP-advertising.

She said there are no plans to address safety directly. "While 35% of consumers think safety is an issue, you may be bringing up an issue that 65% haven't thought about," Ms. Mack said.

American Airlines has long had a series of TV spots focusing on the experience of mechanics, pilots and others, with new executions on the way from Temerlin McClain, Irving, Texas.

The word "experience is code for safety," said Jim O'Donnell, president of Seabrook Marketing.

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