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Delta Air Lines has the overseas routes it needs. What's missing is the image of a premier global carrier and Delta knows it.

While declaring to be "extremely pleased" with its U.S. agency of record for 50 years, BBDO South, Atlanta, Delta is talking on the side with Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, New York, according to agency executives.

Saatchi desperately wants an airline after losing its high-profile $95 million British Airways account (AA, May 8), and Delta would more than make up for that with estimated worldwide billings of $117 million to $120 million.

"We've had no formal contact whatsoever," said Paul Matsen, Delta VP-advertising and consumer marketing.

But people close to both agencies and the marketer say there have been conversations.

For now, Delta has no plans to create a global campaign, although BBDO South is said to be working on a new international effort.

"We're concentrating on name recognition," said Todd Clay, director of corporate communications. Overseas, "we've got to bring us up to the name recognition of the U.S. before we consider a global campaign."

Delta has a weak image overseas and among U.S. international travelers-particularly business travelers-despite 269 international flights weekly to 53 markets.

"Delta has a really positive image domestically but they're virtually unknown internationally," said Barbara Beyer, president of airline consultancy Avmark, Arlington, Va. "They had a terrible time incorporating the Pan Am route system ..... They thought that because they had such a positive image they could just take over and, boom, get traffic."

In an effort to increase awareness, Delta ran a European campaign last fall from Abbott Mead Vickers/BBDO, London.

Also, Delta, the official U.S. carrier for the 1996 Summer Olympics Games, has signed on as the carrier for the Greek, Irish and British Olympic teams.

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