United Airlines said Wednesday it has kicked off a global creative agency review.
The airline has invited incumbent Dentsumcgarrybowen, who has held the account since 2011, to participate in the pitch, a spokesperson confirmed.
The airline declined to name other agencies invited to participate in the pitch.
United is looking to refresh its brand and creative platform in the wake of “the most sustained, seismic disruption in the history of commercial aviation,” a United Airlines spokesperson said in a statement.
“Throughout the pandemic, United has been at the forefront of the industry in delivering on safety, innovation and customer experience,” the spokesperson added. “Now, as vaccine distribution picks up across the U.S. and around the world, we are focused on positioning the airline for a strong recovery that will allow United to fulfill our potential and emerge as the global leader in aviation.
“As part of that, we are reviewing many of our critical partner relationships, including our creative agency, which will be key to helping us build an enduring creative platform that continues to strengthen our brand narrative.”
United confirmed the review does not include media or PR duties. The airline consolidated its roughly $80 million global media business with Dentsu’s Carat, 360i and Merkle in 2018. Mediapost pegged United’s advertising expenses at $220 million in 2017.
The airline industry has been battered by the pandemic, and United was no exception. The company lost $7.1 billion in 2020 and has raised more than $26 billion in liquidity to stay afloat. United has laid off thousands of employees since March 2020.
The travel industry overall slashed its ad spending by half at the onset of the pandemic. While some brands have returned to the marketplace, travel advertising will account for just 2.4% of overall marketing spend in 2020, down from 4.2% the year prior.
But despite the downturn, travel brands are looking to reposition themselves and get back into fighting shape when travel picks up again. And that could be soon, with 47% of people planning to travel internationally in 2021 regardless of getting the vaccine, while 77% said they would be more likely to travel if they get the vaccine.