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The world's "favourite" airline wants to get more personal.

British Airways this week launches new TV commercials in the U.S. that seek to be more intimate, less conceptual than previous campaigns.

The $40 million global TV campaign from M&C Saatchi, London, focuses on a light-hearted attempt to find the next generation of British Airways employees.

The initial spot opens with uniformed British schoolchildren playing musical chairs. As the camera zooms in on each child, superimposed text indicates a possible future for each -- football player, actress, CEO, etc. As one girl gives her chair to another kid, voice-over says: "Some people will naturally put themselves out for others . . . which is why someday we hope Rebecca's favorite job will be with the world's favorite airline."

Because the spot's music is a soft piano, the airline's trademark spot-ending jet sound is left out of the initial spot.

The campaign will air on national cable this year, with the possibility of network TV next year. British Airways recently ran its first-ever network TV advertising (AA, Aug. 17).


David Charlton, U.S. VP-marketing, said the narrower focus on individuals and service came about because "increasingly, that position of scale -- big, huge and corporate -- is going to be represented by our alliance, OneWorld," referring to the recent affiliation formed by American Airlines, Carnival Air Lines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Qantas Airways and BA. The group ran national newspaper ads from American Airlines' agency, Temerlin McClain, Dallas, and M&C Saatchi announcing its formation in late September.

"We started to look at our core attributes, and the most important thing, we decided, is our attitude to service," Mr. Charlton said. "We needed to communicate this without making people yawn, so we kept pushing the agency."

The resulting spot is a departure from earlier work that showed crowds of people holding cards over their heads that at first form a face but, turned over, reveal a collage of the Earth.


British Airways spent $38.3 million in the U.S. in 1997, according to Competitive Media Reporting, and Mr. Charlton said the budget would increase slightly this year, though much more would be in TV.

The previous campaign "began to feel a bit old-fashioned," said Simon Dicketts, M&C Saatchi's London-based creative director. The new work is "less showy and a bit more sensitive."

New York-created work from M&C Saatchi will hit later this year, behind a new service called Fast Track, which will allow American business-class passengers in London to receive speedier immigration processing.

It will show a businessman waiting at the end of several lines over the course of 30 years -- lines of elementary-school kids, teens and grad students. Voice-over says, "By the time you've reached your 30s, you've waited in line for 71/2 weeks. The wait is over."


The OneWorld alliance is an answer to the Star Alliance, formed in May 1997 by United Airlines and Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines System, Air Canada and Thai Airways. A $25 million campaign via Y&R Advertising, New York, supported that alliance.

The challenge of alliance campaigns, Mr. Dicketts said, is to "make sure you don't squash the attributes of any of the airlines. This advertising has to talk about what they share."

A meeting between executives of M&C Saatchi and Temerlin is set for this week in Dallas to discuss the second phase of the OneWorld campaign.

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