Eight amazing airline advertising campaigns that captured the public’s attention

British Airways Concorde
British Airways

If the aviation industry was a country, then it would be among the 20 richest economies in the world.  

It’s perhaps not surprising that when it comes to airline’s marketing and advertising campaigns, they have a bit of money to splash around.  

Partnering up with some of the biggest movie franchises of all time or employing the services of the most recognized people on Earth are just some of the tactics adopted by airlines.  

Over the decades airlines have released some of the most well-known adverts for public consumption.  

While many have courted admiration and critical acclaim, others have stoked controversy, which is not always a bad thing for receiving free publicity.  

Since flying became an industry for the masses there have been thousands of adverts and marketing strategies from airlines all over the world.  

To try and pick the best would be impossible, at least without seeing them all, so AeroTime has put together some of our favorites that really captured the public’s attention. 

British Airways – ‘Look up’ (2013) 

In 2013 British Airways caught the public’s attention with its ‘Look up’ campaign, which tapped into a topic of gazing up into the sky and wondering where a distant plane is travelling to.  

Using digital billboards in London the screen featured a young boy seemingly pointing to real planes flying past in the sky.  

As he pointed upwards the screen revealed the aircraft’s flight number and the destination where the British Airways’ plane was heading to.  

In 2013 BA head of marketing Abigail Comber told website The Drum: “This is a first, not just for British Airways but for UK. advertising. We all know from conversations with friends and family that we wonder where the planes are going and dream of an amazing holiday or warm destination. The clever technology allows this advert to engage people there and then and answer that question for them.” 

ANA – Star Wars Project (ongoing)

In 2015 Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) launched one of the most iconic marketing campaigns to hit the aviation sector.  

In one of the most epic partnerships ANA and the Star Wars franchise forged a coming together of minds to help launch the movie, ‘The Force Awakens’. 

The film was the first in a brand-new trilogy that was followed by ‘The Last Jedi’ (2017) and ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ (2019). 

Star Wars ANA Planes

To mark the first movie one of ANA’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner’s was painted in the colors of the famous droid R2-D2, which appeared for the first time in the original film, ‘A New Hope’.  

This was followed by another plane based around the character BB-8 and a Boeing 777 that took inspiration from the slightly irritating, but lovable droid C-3PO. 

The marketing ploy has been so popular that both the C-3PO and R2-D2 jets still fly in their distinctive livery today.   

Virgin Atlantic – ‘Still red hot’ (2009)

If there is one airline advert that has come out with a bang in the last 15 years and ruffled plenty of feathers, then it is undoubtedly Virgin Atlantic’s 2009 campaign to mark its 25th birthday.  

The campaign was named, ‘Still red hot’ a nod to its iconic brand color and its ‘naughty’ reputation that owner Sir Richard Branson seemed to enjoy promoting.  

The advert featured the thumping 80s song ’Relax’ by Frankie goes to Hollywood and began with footage of the mock-up version of the British tabloid, The Sun, with the headline, ‘It’s the pits!’. 

Set in the 1980s the advert adopted a grey, bleak coloring, symbolizing the tough economic situation in Britain at the time. 

As the footage moves inside London-Gatwick Airport (LGW) passengers are seen eating food and talking on the telephone, when out of the distance several Virgin cabin crew members appear.  

The red uniforms burst through the grey gloom, full of life and the whole airport stand stills as the female attendants walk past, with one male captain in tow.  

The advert was phenomenally successful at a time when the world was desperately trying to gain momentum after the 2008 financial crash. 

However, the advert was also highly criticized for being sexist.   

How successful was the advert? Well, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) wrote: “’Still Red Hot’ is estimated to have driven 20% of overall revenue during the campaign timeline, equating to a payback of £10.58 for every £1 invested. The brand TV alone delivered a payback of £14.64.” 

Lufthansa – Everyone’s Fanhansa (2016) 

Humor has been successfully deployed in many marketing and advertising campaigns.  

Airlines perhaps tend to lean on the more serious aspects of flying such as safety and competency. 

However, well placed comedy can be used with brilliant effect and could help airlines tap into potential markets that may not usually fly with them.  

This was never more apparent than in a Lufthansa advert in May 2016, just weeks before football’s European Championship was being held in France.  

Germany and England are renowned for their footballing rivalry and airline Lufthansa decided to mock the opposing fans in an advert.  

In the advert two English football fans are rebooked on a Lufthansa flight after theirs is canceled.  

Unhappy that they will be flying with the Germans to a football tournament, the younger fan begins imagining the plane being filled with brass horns and passengers dressed in Lederhosen.  

Suddenly the fan wakes up in his seat only to be served a delicious-looking meal and a pint of beer.   

With both the two fans suddenly looking pleased with their new airline, the advert finishes with the message: ‘Fly like a world champion’. 

It is all incredibly fun stuff, showing Lufthansa is getting into the spirit of the tournament and a marketing campaign of the highest level. 

Turkish Airlines – ‘Widen your world’ (2017) 

If you are looking for star quality in your aviation advert and someone who has a voice that holds huge gravitas, then the first phone call you need to make is to Morgan Freeman.  

And that is exactly what Turkish Airways did in 2017 when the airline signed up Freeman for a globally advertising campaign called ‘Widen your world’. 

Freeman had his first major Hollywood breakthrough in the late 1980s, despite his acting for many years.  

Although an exceptional actor he was also famed for his rich, soothing voice, which gained particular acclaim when he appeared as the character Red in ‘Shawshank Redemption’. 

So, when Turkish Airlines wanted to create an advert that tapped into viewer’s feelings about being freedom and adventures in the advert, there was only one person in mind.  

The advert has almost filmlike, emotional qualities and Freeman’s narration no doubt left some viewers reaching for the tissue box.  

British Airways – ‘Concorde’ (1996) 

In 1996, years before the space adventures of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezoz, British Airways was the leading company heading to Mars. Well, that is at least what the carrier’s adverts led viewers to believe.  

In a famous campaign from the 1990s, when the supersonic Concorde was in its element, BA released an advert with the iconic jet flying to space.  

The special effects were a little dodgy by today’s standards, but the advert was incredible for its time.  

With an astronaut floating through outer space and a weightless pen floating off from the seat table the whole advert fitted with the brand that the Concorde was something out of this world.  

In the end the advert simply stated that Concorde had flown over 150million miles, which is about the same as flying to Mars and back.  

However, the whole arraignment of the advert felt revolutionary, much like the Concorde itself. 

You can watch the video here.

Air New Zealand – ‘Hobbit’ (2012, 2014) 

Air New Zealand pulled out all the stops in 2012 when the airline released a safety video that was inspired by the then upcoming film ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’. 

It seems no expense was spared with costumes and aesthetic masks used to make up the strangest group of passengers ever seen.  

Members of the cast and even the director Peter Jackson made an appearance in the safety video that lasted more than four minutes.  

The marketing ploy proved so successful that the safety video has been viewed 13 million times and, if that was not enough, in 2014 Air New Zealand launched a second Hobbit-themed film.  

The incredibly detailed video, titled ‘The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made’, featured costumed-clad middle earthers once again, including Elijah Wood. 

And if Air New Zealand thought that nothing would top the 2012 video it was wrong, as the 2014 version clocked nearly 23 million views. 

You can view the 2012 safety video here and the 2014 version here.  

So, what do you think of our choices? Let us know if we forgot your favorite airline advertising or marketing campaign.


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