As China continues to reopen its borders amid the global post-pandemic travel boom, Cathay Pacific is hoping to entice more fliers through their stomachs by presenting an elevated in-flight dining experience.
With the help of VCCP Singapore, the airline's latest campaign, 'The Difference is in the Details' centres around a master film that provides a sensory overload for foodies looking for a return to the days when an in-flight meal was a moment to look forward to and heightened the travel experience.
Edward Bell, Cathay Pacific's general manager of brand, insights and marketing communications tells Campaign that the airline identified a disconnect between actual experience and brand impression around their food that it wished to correct.
"Our research showed us that while the actual customer experience of Cathay Pacific's inflight dining was among the leaders, the overall impression of it lagged," he says. "This felt like something that marketing communications could help to address. Make no mistake that we are focused on improving the product, but what was interesting was to learn that the mental gap was larger."
While the campaign has been in the works for many months, its arrival appears particularly well-timed given the recent backlash faced by Singapore Airlines, Cathay's rival premium carrier in Asia, over its decision to repackage its food offerings in a way that many customers felt degraded their in-flight dining experience and failed to meet SIA's 'world class' expectations.
In contrast, focusing on iconic Hong Kong flavours, Cathay's film doubles down on attention and rigour put into food preparation. Using dynamic angles and dramatic sound effects, viewers are led through lush enoki mushroom forests, waving coriander fields, serenaded by the uncorking of wine and the sharp popping of champagne bubbles rising.
Much like the title of the campaign, the difference for those producing it was also in the details. VCCP enlisted the help of Foodfilm, the duo of Paris-based film director and photographer, Michael Roulier and Phillippe Lhomme, and production house Where is Brian? for their expertise in turning food preparation into cinematic artistry that makes dumplings glisten, egg tarts tantalise and a tea infusion feels like a botanical explosion under water.
"If it had just been us attempting it on our own, it probably would have been impossible," admits VCCP Singapore executive creative director Andrew Hook. "Technology is essential and of course, very helpful to make the food (or camera) do what you want it to," he tells Campaign. "And yet surprisingly, often the real magic tricks are still very low fi and physical or analogue."
"The trick is to bring in the experts and get them involved early in proceedings," Hook continues. "Thankfully, Michael and Phillippe at Foodfilm live, breathe and (I'm guessing) dream food. Right from our first conversations, they could talk very vividly about what they were seeing in their minds – and then put that down as quick pencil sketches to make it tangible. They helped us imagine not just the food itself, but the angles, the camera work, and the movement in each case."
Hook says another key learning was how crucial pre-testing was in order to understand how different ingredients were going to behave during the shoot to avoid hiccups during production.
Although Bell is hoping to see a tangible shift in customer attitudes from the campaign, he nonetheless feels the best part of the campaign may be in the intangibles.
"The sheer beauty of it. Simple things made elegant," he says. "And I like the human joy at the end. We can all relate to that."