Taking Off

The much desired advertisement slot during X factor has caught my attention with the battle of the airlines. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have both recently released new adverts in this prime time slot, each with a completely different approach.

Virgin’s ad by Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe Y&R have once again relied on ‘sex sells.’ The women are beautifully made up in their iconic red uniforms, with red lipstick and high heels exuding the confidence and sex appeal of the ‘Jet Age’ in the 60’s. ‘Feeling Good’ by Muse is the backing track to the ad, which seductively leads the viewer through the surreal flight experience. Virgin Atlantic’s ad captures the glamorous side of flying, yet manages to bring it back down to earth in the final few seconds- a rather British, eccentric touch.

In contrast, British Airways’ advert focuses on tradition, heritage and the history of aviation in Great Britain.  Their ad, named ‘Fly to Serve’ reflects on the industry with pride and gust and utter Britishness, “That campaign, which cost more than £1m to make, featured hundreds of famous passengers from BA’s history with actors playing celebrities including Alfred Hitchcock, John Lennon, modern stars including Michael Owen and Jerry Hall and an electronically created image of Margaret Thatcher.” – needless to say it differs vastly to that of Virgin Atlantic.

Interestingly, Pan AM, a new TV show in America premiered on the 25th of September. The TV program showcases the giant American Airline of the 60’s, Pan AM- famous for the pilots and stewardesses leading adventurous and glamorous lifestyles, travelling the world. So do we begin to see a little airline trend in the midst?


  • g.smurf

    Interesting post.

    What strikes me is the contrasting methods of communicating a message between the two ads. BA opts to directly tell its story with a narrator supplementing the visual, whereas Virgin focusses on a Bond-esque opening sequence complimented by a suitably spirited song.

    Whether one method is more effective than the other is open to debate, but it is intriguing to assess how different brands choose to tell their respective stories through advertising.

    A “subtle”, minimalist approach (like Virgin’s) draws in viewers to think and feel for themselves based upon what they see and hear and as a result are free to develop a personal attachment to a product or service. The brain (and possibly the heart) is engaged without being instructed to be. It could be argued that a more “direct” approach (like that of BA’s with use of a narrator) might be considered as force feeding a story onto a viewer. The latter approach is fine if the story is compelling and intriguing enough, but the former in my opinion is more engaging because by its nature it invites viewers to connect on their own terms.

    Of course much depends on the objective of the advertising campaign and what a business thinks is more appropriate for its audience at any given time. But in a world where consumers are more commercially aware and vocal than ever before, sharing the control of story-telling and allowing audiences to connect with and attach themselves to a brand on their terms whether through advertising or other means, is in my opinion, the way forward.