money well spent? or Money wasted?

FA Mikey

Aug 19, 2002
Bankrupt United plans $50M ad campaign
By Michael McCarthy, USA TODAY
United Airlines will launch in March its first major ad campaign since seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Dec. 9.
United and ad agency Fallon in Minneapolis are developing ideas for the estimated $50 million national effort. The world''s No. 2 airline says it will promote its customer service features and — taking a page from the marketing of such low-cost rivals as Southwest and JetBlue — likely will tout the experience of flying United as part of its value.
What''s the difference between the major carriers? Not much. That''s why there''s no strong brand preferences among consumers, says Jerry Dow, United''s director of worldwide marketing communications. We want to give customers a reason to believe United is different from our competitors.
The question of what the message should be and even whether it should spend millions on ads divides experts.
United can''t afford not to advertise, says creative development expert Michael Markowitz. Going silent will only fuel the flying public''s worst fears about their financial condition.
But crisis management consultant Eric Dezenhall thinks it could easily be money wasted. I have found image advertising in crises to be an exercise in self-congratulation, not damage control. If United answers the question for consumers, ''What''s in it for me?'' it may be worth the risk. But if it''s an ad featuring a little girl with daisies in her hair hugging a pilot, it won''t cut it.
Fruman Jacobson, partner at Chicago law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal that is counsel to the committee representing unsecured creditors, says United needs to market, even if it''s in Chapter 11. They require loyal customers and need to keep up with the competition, which are always advertising, he says.
United has also hired crisis PR specialist Gavin Anderson & Co. in New York.
Plans being considered for the ad campaign:
United might cast real pilots and flight attendants as it did after Sept. 11. And the campaign might have an ease of use theme built on such features as EasyCheck-in airport kiosks and EasyUpdate flight status alerts sent to customers'' phone, e-mail or paging devices. Ads also might tout United''s on-time record and global routes.
Ads will run heavily in United hub markets: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver and Boston. Dow anticipates spending at the same levels as previous years. UAL spent $35.8 million on U.S. ads in the first half of 2002, according to ad tracker CMR.
Bankruptcy will not be mentioned. United ran newspaper ads after the filing to reassure customers that the airline would keep flying, would not skimp on safety and would honor frequent-flier miles. But those were the last ads that will mention the filing, Dow says. We don''t want to dwell on the past.


Aug 27, 2002

I agree with mr. hell ;) in that advertising is essential at this point. I was very pleased to read about it. Honestly, I hope they play George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue prominently. Leo Burnett did an excellend job when they had the account - this song defines United and I miss it not being used. Actually, United owns the rights to the song. Remember the campaign Burnett did of the pelican taping his beak on the piano to rhapsody in blue to announce service to south america? I loved it.

While I loved the spots after 9/11 with employees - I hope they create a balance of message and employees.

In terms of reaching out - I'm a premier exec - I received a great email from Chris Bowers in the days leading to Dec. 9th. He was honest and didn't write a bunch of customer service bs. I apprciate the honesty.

Then I got an email from Tilton the day of the filing. Again, honest and no BS.

I haven't heard anything since...but I don't view that as a negative. I would rather get an update when a critical milestone is reached rather than fluff. opinion is so far, so good. Looking forward to the campaign in March!
Aug 20, 2002
UA must advertise now and highlight the value of their product. UA has some 'crusty' employees who should be spotlighted in the ads to emphasize their experience edge.

For the high-mileage UA flyers on this board I have a question: how much has UA reached out to you personally in the last month (i.e. has anyone called you) to keep your business?

It is much much harder to regain an old customer than to lure a new customer.