Maisie McCabe
Jan 20, 2021

British Airways owner reviews all global agency relationships

IAG appointed WPP to the full-service BA account in 2017.

British Airways: Oscar winner Olivia Colman featured in 2019 ad created by Ogilvy
British Airways: Oscar winner Olivia Colman featured in 2019 ad created by Ogilvy

British Airways' owner, International Airways Group, is reviewing its global agency relationships in a bid for "further alignment" among its partners.

IAG sent out an RFI to agencies earlier this week. Its current agency contracts expire in the first three months of 2022 and so the group, which also owns Iberia and Vueling, is looking to make an appointment before then.

In May 2017 BA appointed WPP to its media planning, strategy and buying; creative services; social media; paid search; affiliates; and production business. The UK-based holding company also won Avios' media services and IAG Cargo's production and creative/studio work.

A team drawing on resources from Ogilvy and Wavemaker services the account in their Sea Containers office on the South Bank in London.

Carat retained the global media planning and buying for Iberia in the 2017 review and picked up Vueling's business for all offline and online media. 

A BA spokeswoman said: "The aviation industry and marketing landscape have changed significantly over the last five years and now is the time for us to review our agency model to create further alignment at an IAG group level and to ensure the media, creative and production services we use allow us to respond to the current and future needs of our business and our customers." 

On Boxing Day in 2019, British Airways Holidays launched a TV campaign that played on the competitiveness some people feel when they talk about their holidays. "Clever you" was created by Ogilvy and shot by Motherland director Juliet May.

The BA account is one of the most prestigious and sought after in UK advertising, despite being smaller than it once was.

Saatchi & Saatchi's 1989 ad "Face" is often cited as one of the best British ads of all time. After breaking away from Saatchi & Saatchi, M&C Saatchi's founders successfully rented an empty office and filled it with models to give the impression they had a global network to win the business. 

The 2017 appointment of WPP ended BA's 12-year relationship with Publicis Groupe's Bartle Bogle Hegarty London. BBH had expanded its relationship with BA in 2014, adding the loyalty account – at Oglivy's expense – to its existing advertising remit.

Ogilvy's DM agency, OgilvyOne, as it was then known, regained a foothold in the BA business in September 2016 when it took back its social media at the expense of SapientNitro (now Publicis Sapient), which had won the creative technology account in April 2015

Carat handled the media planning and buying for both BA and sister airline Iberia between 2013 and 2017. Prior to hiring Carat, BA worked with Publicis Groupe's ZenithOptimedia (now Zenith in the UK).

The airline industry has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. IAG's passenger revenue declined by 71.4% in the first nine months of 2020. IAG has also slashed the price it will pay for Spanish budget carrier Air Europa to €500m, half the €1bn it promised in November 2019.

WPP chief executive Mark Read has previously said up to one third of pitches are now integrated reviews.

Walgreens Boots Alliance and Centrica are among major advertisers to hold integrated reviews in the last 18 months.

Campaign UK

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