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The moment Michael Jeary, CEO-chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, New York, heard that British Airways was lost, he put a copywriter to work.

The next day's Wall Street Journal carried this ad: "Who wants to be the next world's favourite?" with Mr. Jeary's phone number.

"It could be for anything," said Ed Wax, chairman-CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising. "We can make anything the world's favorite."

But the ad, and a formidable Saatchi new-business effort, are focused on replacing BA.

The ad already is running or is set to run in other cities, including newspapers in Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta, hubs of three airlines Saatchi is targeting: United, American and Delta.

The most likely candidate would seem to be Delta, which wouldn't comment last week when asked whether Saatchi had been in contact. Delta's U.S. agency is BBDO Worldwide, Atlanta. The airline last fall broke its first pan-European campaign via Abbott Mead Vickers/BBDO, London. Even though the airline has more than 200 flights weekly to Europe, its name recognition abroad is virtually non-existent.

There would be a certain delicious irony to such a move. Delta has a marketing alliance with Virgin Atlantic Airways, which has sparred for years in court and in ads with British Airways.

In another irony, Cordiant's U.S. stock price actually rose last week. It closed the day of the BA announcement at 41/4 and finished the week at 5.

One analyst said that was because the market had assumed the account would move.

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