The one with the world’s favourite airline

I used to live in West London. I lived on the 7th floor of a building and could lie in bed and watch the aircraft on final approach to Heathrow. I reached a point where “you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all” but that wasn’t true when (given this was the late 90s) Concorde came into land. It looked amazing; it sounded different and just represented something special in aviation terms.

When I visited New York for the first time I was lucky enough to go on board one of the decommissioned Concorde’s which was at the time on display near USS Intrepid at Pier 86. It was surprisingly small but still looked amazing. The obvious affection the aircraft was held in was reflected by the messages left by crew (air & ground alike) on various parts of the fuselage.

What’s brought this to mind? British Airways have recently launched a new advertising campaign entitled “To Fly. To Serve”. If you haven’t seen the advert I’ve linked it below. It depicts the journey through passenger aviation from Imperial Airways, to BOAC, to a modern 747-400 and of course Concorde. Sadly, I believe all the Concordes had their engines removed after being taken out of service so the shots of the Concorde flying are computer generated. In my opinion it’s a very effective film which deserves a nod to all involved especially BBH whose creative work drove it.

You may be wondering why I am writing about it? There are several reasons:

The first is I am a British Airways customer (clinging on to my frequent flyer card for dear life and trying to get consulting gigs that need flights!!) and have spent many hours on their aircrafts and had some great experiences and some not so great experiences.

The second is I think this campaign reflects the changed times (as do many others) in that it was initially launched (I think) on YouTube and the brand are actively engaging on social media with those commenting about it (I have had 2 different tweets from 2 different BA Twitter accounts). So in addition to the TV and website exposure, the brand are ‘landing’ (pardon the pun) the work and driving the engagement very actively. There are also a number of supporting and complimentary videos around the core video shown above.

The third and to me most significant reason is I think it’s a strong piece of corporate communication. Yes, it’s a strong piece of advertising but advertising to me always implies a sales message and it certainly seems focussed at that but there is more.

To me the core message of “To Fly. To Serve” is an empowering statement to the customers of the airline. I can picture a scene on board an aircraft if someone is not getting what they want they may well invoke this statement in questioning the customer experience. Now I can also picture a scene where it is glibly thrown at some poor cabin crew member but to me the idea of empowering your customers to hold you to the standard you profess is very powerful.

There is also a very clear statement of values to the employees of British Airways. I can imagine there are some who having seen (or been involved in the making of, which was a nice touch) the film have felt a real pride in the organisation they work for and it has empowered or maybe even inspired them to live up to the message. Likewise, I can imagine a few jaded individuals shrugging their shoulders and with eyes raised to heaven, cursing management or marketing and maybe just maybe this will set a bar that proves too high for them.

In a time when the economy is woeful and competition rife it is pleasing to me to see a British brand investing in such an effective piece of multi faceted communication that harks back to the days of “the world’s favourite airline”


No BA miles or Tier Points were exchanged for the writing of this blog!!



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6 responses to “The one with the world’s favourite airline

  1. Hmmmm I do like the movie, but I’m not convinced about the strapline, no matter how old it is. You make some great points but im struggling with its authenticity somewhat. Maybe that because, as I referred to in your Vision blog, I dont believe this came from the people – the employees, the prganisation. Or maybe thats because im getting too old and cynical.

    Btw, i do think the new Weetabix ad is hilarious… 😉

  2. Great post Rob. I think the ad really sucks. It’s patronising and it bears no resemblance whatsoever to my many BA customer experiences. I’ve experienced more delays and indifference from BA than any other airline I’ve used over the years. For me – like many old established organisations they carry an arrogance that implies ‘you’re lucky to have us’ rather than the other way around. And that arrogance reeks out of the new advert, I don’t buy it.

  3. I’m a strong ABBA fan (Anyone But BA), having competed against this bunch for 20 years in my youth, and I think the ad is quite interesting.

    I think it is aimed straight at BA’s managers and employees (not customers – this is BA, remember – part of their internal challenge is to remind their people about the importance of their customers) and is trying to re-evoke a unifying spirit that executives have been systematically contaminating for decades, since Mrs (no such as society) Thatcher appointed Lord King to the airline. At that level I think the ad works pretty well. If I were teh agency and director,I would feel I’d done a good job.

    It raises another question about who briefed and who bought the ad. It’s not the whole BA of course, but it is a senior person or people in BA. Other senior people must have said, “Yes. This is what we aspire to.” If those people are in the right place (not just marketing, but in general management and operations) and genuinely trying to lead and unify BA, then I think we can hope.

    The ‘to serve’ phrase plays to the archetypal image BA would like to have about itself as a “service” with echoes of the Services, (the earliest Imperial & BOAC people came from the military and diplomatic services). For a long time BA managers made their position very clear that they thought BA should be the UK’s chosen instrument and all this competition stuff was a ghastly mistake. I wonder if that ad harks back to those halcyon days?

    Thanks, Doug, for guiding me to this interesting blog.

  4. Charles Cotton

    Perhaps it is telling that the focus of the BA advertisement is on the pilots or the flight crew, rather than the rest of the workers that contribute to a successful flight, such as the cabin crew. Contrast this with the Virgin advertisement, where the cabin crew are given a much higher billing, though even that ignores the contribution of the mechanics and technicians getting the plane in the air.

  5. Just catching up on the comments – I see a significantly better quality of typing than my first effort this morning! Anyway, great comments and especially yours Charles – I think the Virgin one was much better for the reasons you point out.

  6. This is an interesting one for sure and I don’t think it can really be compared to the Virgin ads. I see this piece as very much a corporate communications video, reminding BA’s audience (customers, staff and shareholders alike) of the values of the business.

    This video gives the feeling of reliability, solidity and longevity – which are all values that people are looking for in a business at the moment. BA are strengthening those perceptions and encouraging you to apply for a job, buy a share and to buy a ticket. There’s been a trend recently for people to look back to morale-building messaging of the second world war, ‘keep calm and carry on posters etc.’ and brands have been picking up on this trend also in their advertising. For me this video is a message saying ‘you know who we are, we’ve been around for ages and we’re going to be here for a lot longer’.

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