Virgin Express awards pan-Euro account

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STOCKHOLM -- Welinder, a Stockholm-based creative hot shot which has built a reputation on handling international clients, has been awarded the $3m pan-Euro advertising account for British entrepreneur Richard Branson's upstart airline, Virgin Express. Currently the no-frills airline flies to Spain, Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, the U.K. and Denmark.

Previously, Brussels-based agency Art Direction created advertising that Virgin Express used in Belgium. Last year Branson acquired Brussels- based no-frills airline Eurobelgian Airlines. Two international and a local agency pitched for the account

Welinder's brief is to change the way Europeans view air travel as deregulation is introduced to Europe so that consumers begin to take short, weekend breaks by air. "In Europe we have to try to break down the idea that traveling on impulse is only for the rich and business travelers," says David Huttner, the Brussels- based promotions manager for Virgin Express.

"We expect to completely change the direction of European air travel," says Huttner. "In the past airlines sold a luxury service and a romantic image. That has gone the way of steam. Air travel should be a form a transport - pleasant but inexpensive. Welinder understands that and has a strong international team -- a member of their team has worked in the U.S. on an airline account."

In addition to leisure travel, Virgin Express targets the budget-minded businesses traveler.

In 1994 the Swedish agency Welinder began transforming itself by packing the agency with staff from outside Sweden. Today, a majority of its client base is pan-Scandinavian or pan-European. Last year it won Radisson SAS Hotels' international corporate account. It does European work for pharmaceutical group Pharmacia & Upjohn.

Last summer a highly publicized partnership between global network Ammirati Puris Lintas and Welinder fell through because of differences in strategic goals. Prior to that Welinder was affiliated with Bozell.

Copyright June 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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