United stops 'Rising,' asks for new ideas

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United Airlines has grounded its much-criticized "Rising" campaign from Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis.

The airline has asked Fallon and international agency Y&R Advertising, New York, to work together and independently to generate new ideas for United's domestic campaign, according to people close to situation.

The airline apparently isn't talking to other agencies. The new creative likely will break in January.

"Rising" acknowledged the unpleasantness business travelers must endure such as bad food and late planes.

Despite the campaign's demise, United is said to remain loyal to Fallon, said an executive familiar with the situation. United executives are "very loyal and willing to give everybody many chances to succeed," the executive said.

Fallon officials could not be reached for comment. Y&R, also the agency for the Star Alliance partnership between United and Germany's Lufthansa German Airlines and other airlines, referred calls to United.

A United spokesman acknowledged the airline is looking at "a number of options" for next year but said: "The advertising strategy for 2000 is not going to change regarding the content, look or style . . . Everyone will have to wait and see."

Over time, "Rising" turned from a sympathy for road warriors to a comment on how United was making the ordeal more pleasant for those frequent fliers. The airline recently launched a new print campaign with the "United is rising" tagline for its Economy Plus program.

In recent months, ads have relied more heavily on the pre-Fallon "Rhapsody in Blue" theme music. The George Gershwin piece was used to much success by United's previous agency, Leo Burnett Co., Chicago, which Fallon succeeded in 1996.

Talk about the campaign's being in trouble surfaced in July, when United had a management shakeup.

David Coltman, the senior VP-marketing who initiated the agency review three years ago, was replaced by Graham Atkinson. John Kiker, formerly VP-corporate communications, became VP-advertising and communications.

Fallon apparently has a friend in UAL Corp. Chairman-CEO James Goodwin, who is a close friend of agency Chairman Pat Fallon, according to an executive close to Fallon McElligott.

UAL is the parent of United.

Contributing: David Goetzl

Copyright October 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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