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In-your-face ads have to build brand recognition[hong kong] When Mark T. Weinberger tells Americans he works at Cathay Pacific, they suspect he's a waiter in a Chinese restaurant. And that's the Hong Kong-based airline's brand awareness challenge as it inaugurates service to New York this month.

Cathay Pacific Airways' worldwide ad campaign-simple but striking images captured in calligraphy, with the theme line: "The heart of Asia"-wasn't much help in reaching prospective customers in the heart of New York. Benchmark research by Cathay this spring found the airline scored in the low single figures on brand awareness-and that was after using telemarketing to find 100 New Yorkers who had traveled to Hong Kong in the last year.

"With Air France [for example] you know it's an airline and that it goes to France," said Mr. Weinberger, Cathay's Los Angeles-based manager-marketing communications for the U.S. market.


Cathay figured out how to convey both its identity as an airline and a new destination by creating print ads using "JFK 2 HKG," penned in the brush-stroke style of its global ad campaign by McCann-Erickson, Hong Kong, Cathay's worldwide agency.

Other ads were less subtle in the seven-week, $5 million New York media blitz. They included game show-style TV spots; outdoor ads on telephone kiosks, some painted on buses, and even some on taxi tops; and ads in daily newspapers. The campaign led up to the first flights this month.

"To break through the clutter, we used a New York-style, in-your-face, hit-consumers-over-the-head-with-a-mallet message," Mr. Weinberger said.


Headlines on print ads were written in New Yorkese, using phrases like "Hong Kong. Direct. Getouttahere," and "Hong Kong without the schlepp." Taxi top ads appealed to New Yorkers' sense of humor with lines such as "In Hong Kong, the cabbies speak English."

Eight :15 TV spots were done like rounds of TV game show "Jeopardy!," where participants are given the correct answer and have to guess the question. The question that matches answers like "This airline provides 100% smokefree flights to Hong Kong" is "What is Cathay Pacific?"

Cathay will repeat its study this month and hopes to measure a jump in brand awareness.

In its home market, Cathay simply announced the route with a six-page magazine insert and other print ads using a Big Apple icon, as well as a direct mail campaign to its frequent-flier database.

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