United, Fallon go stealthy to intro low-cost carrier

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From the initial meeting with the client to the actual launch, it took Publicis Groupe's Fallon Worldwide, Minneapolis, less than a month to create a successful buzz marketing campaign for United Airlines' new low-cost carrier.

"Ted" is the name of United's entry into the discount-airline business, taken from the parent airline's last three letters. Ted will be formally introduced Nov.18 and begin flying in February.

Fallon, United's lead creative agency, was summoned to UAL headquarters outside Chicago on Sept. 30 and was first told about Ted.

"A week later we had 60 to 65 different pieces of creative on the table, from teaser print ads to outdoor boards, and a week after that we came back with another 150 pieces," said Alex Leikikh, Fallon's account director for United. "It was an ungodly amount of work, but worth it."

Fallon launched the campaign Oct. 29 in Denver, where Ted will begin flying. The campaign also included such stealth events as sending flowers to hospital patients from "Ted" and buying dessert for a restaurant full of patrons, also courtesy of "Ted."

`who's ted?'

Talk about stealth. Fallon even went so far as to hire a guerrilla-marketing company in Denver to execute the campaign and a local planner to place the media, keeping the Fallon name away from even the smallest vendor. Within days of the initial executions, people all over Denver were asking: "Who's Ted?"

"There's been a lot of cynicism about low-cost airlines," Mr. Leikikh said, "so United decided to introduce it directly to the consumer."

For all the awareness, however, some still question both the name and United's decision to even launch a low-cost airline.

"Branding buzz notwithstanding ... it's hard to see what the fuss is about," said UBS Warburg analyst Sam Buttrick.

Both Fallon and United said there will be a formal advertising campaign for Ted after it launches in February. Neither the agency nor the company would say how much was spent on the buzz marketing campaign.

physical

It's not known whether the formal campaign will include a physical embodiment or representation of "Ted." Tire company Uniroyal introduced a "living logo" featuring three stunt drivers, Uni, Roy and Al, in a campaign from Doyle Dane Bernbach in 1973.

"It will continue to evolve in Denver, including more goodwill efforts, but also move into a new phase," a United spokesman said of the campaign. "We will market Ted in a variety of ways."

Ted has also conjured up images of the old Braniff Airlines campaign from that same era, in which a flight attendant coyly said, "I'm Barbara. Fly Me."

"What's next? Is Continental going to come out with a discount airline named `Al?'" said Terry Trippler, airline-industry expert from Web site cheapseats.com. "It's going to take more than a cute name to make this work."

But Fallon and United defended the moniker, saying it's more than a name.

"We're creating a personality," said Stuart D'Rosario, creative director at Fallon. "We're creating something that's under the umbrella of United but at the same time independent. I think it's going to catch on."

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