LONDON - In the early 80s, British Airways was in a tailspin. It was losing £300 million a year and its image and reputation were in the doldrums.
The culling of 26,000 jobs had sent staff morale tumbling.
Sir John King, the chairman appointed by Margaret Thatcher to guide the near bankrupt national flag carrier out of state ownership and into private hands, needed advertising that would not only restore City confidence and fire up staff but put bums on seats. With Manhattan he got it.
The Saatchi & Saatchi ad, the first of its kind to encapsulate such diverse requirements, was based on a simple premise: that the number of people carried across the Atlantic each year by BA was greater than the population of Manhattan.
The upshot was a Spielberg-inspired ad with the kind of wow! factor never seen before.
"BA’s situation was so bad that we couldn’t show planes or staff," Bill Muirhead, then the Saatchi account man on BA recalls. "When I saw the rushes the hairs on the back of my neck stood up."
This ad was kindly donated by the Arrows Archive, which contains all TV ads nominated for the BTAA Awards since 1977. The archive is maintained by the History of Advertising Trust.