Emirates SVP advertising Chris Galanto tells M&M Global that its decision to hire Jennifer Aniston has helped save the airline from spending extra digital ad dollars.
In the competitive world of airline marketing, the trickiest task is can be standing out from the competition.
National carriers often find themselves conveying similarly generic pictures of comfort and airborne luxury, without distinguishing how their brand differs from its runway rivals. Celebrities and sportsmen clink champagne glasses in interchangeable premium cabins, and CMOs hope passengers will remember the logo at the end of the commercial.
So Emirates’ controversial 2015 campaign, starring Jennifer Aniston, arrived as something of a surprise. The cheeky spot showed the ‘Friends’ actress suffering a nightmare in which cabin crew for an unnamed US domestic airline laughed off her requests for a shower, before she awoke in a comfortable bed on an Emirates flight.
The ad (watch below) was intended as a “cheeky shot across the bow” of the US aviation industry, in light the ‘open skies’ market liberalisation allowing it to operate in North America. And, in terms of awareness, it certainly did the trick, generating over 36 million views across social media channels.
US gossip magazines seized on the chance to write about one of their favourite celebrities, questioning whether Aniston was “snobby” to criticise ordinary domestic air travel, promoting Emirates to a hitherto untapped audience.
Speaking to M&M Global, Emirates’ senior vice president of advertising Chris Galanto claimed that, despite some social media turbulence, the ad had proved a huge success, with Aniston’s “charm, humour and style” providing a “good fit” for its brand ambitions.
However, acknowledging that some felt the comparison with Emirates’ First Class cabin “a little unfair”, Galanto says the brand set upon a strategy to promote its Economy cabin in similarly luxurious terms.
“We wanted to show how the Emirates experience is a great one wherever you are sitting in the aircraft. We are confident enough in Emirates economy that we put a celebrity in it – and we are probably the first airline to do so,” says Galanto, a former managing director of ad agency Impact BBDO in Qatar.
“A strong creative it gives you the ability to get a lot of traction without putting paid media on the social channels”
With Aniston’s on-screen presence reportedly requiring a $5m pay cheque, the airline considered other options, but decided a return would be the best way of generating maximum attention: “Celebrities offer brands a chance to break through the clutter, and [Aniston] is one of Hollywood’s most popular actresses, known for her humour, warmth and great personality.
“So it might require a more significant upfront investment but that is recouped by the organic reach that is generated in millions of households that might not have heard about your brand. In this case, in particular the US, which is such an important market for us,” he adds.
The new campaign (watch below) shows Aniston discover a small boy named Cooper in her private suite. Having chatted to him about his ambitions to become an A380 pilot, they seek out his parents in Economy cabin, before Aniston decides to join the family in Economy – and allows Cooper’s mother to enjoy the benefits of First Class.
Created by an in-house team, in partnership with director Bryan Buckley’s LA production studio, the ad clearly offers a counterpoint to any perceived ‘snobbery’ in the previous campaign. However, consumer interest has been no less significant, with Galanto claiming that, within seven days, the spot had already been viewed 10 million times and generated coverage with over 300 global publications.
After a week of PR-led promotion, Emirates has now kicked off its paid media strategy, orchestrated by Havas Media Group. Traditional media and digital ads will run in 15 key markets, including the US, Germany, UK, Australia, India and the Middle East. Nevertheless, Galanto said it has been important to refrain from paid media for an initial period.
“It was very much a plan to launch with a teaser, to let it breathe on its own organically on our own pages, and it has been a huge success from that perspective. It is important to give it enough time to see what can be done without investing too much money,” he says.
“Buying views is one thing, and often necessary, but if you’ve got a strong creative it gives it that ability to get a lot of traction without putting paid media on the social channels. We now have the opportunity to see if it hit our objectives, and where we want to invest in a paid strategy to boost views down the line.”
A third ad?
Galanto is coy on the question of whether Aniston will return for a third occasion, remarking that she has never been positioned as “the face of Emirates” – unlike, say, Nicole Kidman in the case of Emirati rival Etihad.
With recent campaigns featuring a range of personalities – from the airline’s own staff to YouTuber Casey Neistat – he insists the brand has numerous avenues it can pursue without becoming tethered to a single ambassador: “We’ve got so many opportunities to explore stories, and experiences to impart, that we shouldn’t be tied to one particular star or celebrity.”
“We want to show that flying is not the negative experience it is with so many other carriers”
However, as long as the story is “credible” and the endorsement carries “believability”, Galanto will not rule out Aniston appearing in future campaigns – particularly if it helps Emirates to further its ambitions of becoming a true lifestyle brand, and promote the “iconic” A380 aircraft.
“We’re all about connecting globalistas and inspiring the world,” says Galanto (pictured, below). “[We want] to show there is a tremendous joy to be had in the flying experience. It is not the negative experience it is with so many other carriers, in certain parts of the world. Getting from A to B should be an enjoyable part of the overall journey.”