Why British Airways’ New Campaign Rips Up the Advertising Rulebook

Skift Take

British Airways’ bold new advertisements come as the airline tries to re-establish its premium brand positioning.

Is British Airways’ new ad campaign a masterclass or a missed opportunity? It’s a question that’s had the industry talking over the Easter weekend.

In recent days, the company’s latest advertisements have been popping up all over the UK, and they break almost every marketing convention. 

There’s no slogan, no website, no call to action. There isn’t a QR code for curious minds to learn more. In fact, the name of the airline is barely visible.

At first glance, it looks like the outdoor billboards have the wrong-sized advertisements. An overly cropped image suggests there must be more. A printing error perhaps? Not so.

According to the airline, the campaign is designed to “capture the wonder on customers’ faces when they look out of an aircraft window and onto the world from 35,000 feet.” 

The idea is that passengers usually take photos from their seats out of the plane window. In an innovative twist, the camera is reversed to highlight the travelers’ emotions as they look towards their destination. It’s in stark contrast to the serene air-to-air blue sky photography so well-worn in other airline commercials. 

A total of 11 images make up the ‘Windows’ campaign – all of which rely on the airline’s established brand recognition to tell the story. Six British Airways staff are among those to feature in the subtle concept. 

The project was developed alongside Uncommon Creative Studio – an agency known for its quirky campaigns. 

Nils Leonard, Uncommon co-founder, drew parallels between advertising and publishing sectors in explaining the strategy: “Only truly iconic brands can say less. The magazine you notice most is the one with the least on the cover, the same is true of posters.”

Rebuilding A Damaged Brand

The promotion comes at a critical time for the airline.

British Airways says it is spending £7 billion ($8.9 billion) over the next two years to overhaul its operation and enhance the passenger experience. It follows allegations that underinvestment and outsourcing have left the UK flag carrier on the back foot.

Sean Doyle, British Airways Chairman and CEO, previously said the investment program would “revolutionize our business.”

Media buying agency MG OMD worked with the airline to identify and secure 500 advertising locations around the United Kingdom.

Alongside traditional billboards, there are also digital versions in major cities including Edinburgh, Manchester, and London’s Piccadilly Circus. 

The billboards are the latest phase of a larger publicity push for the UK flag carrier. In March it released a new television commercial directed by Emmy award winner Miles Jay. 

Both the television and outdoor ads form part of BA’s ‘A British Original’ positioning. The campaign launch won a Cannes Lions award last year.

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