ITV 50 Years of Fame: Private view - British Airways

My relationship with British Airways started long before my relationship with ITV.

My parents worked for the airline back when Heathrow was a just row of tents. I remember going to school with my BEA Bag (now cutting-edge trendy), eating my tea with branded cutlery and those tiny salt and pepper pots from the planes. So the brand empathy was loaded in way before our black-and-white television arrived.

Therefore, I am biased but the company's advertising has been great.

As a punter, the BA brand has always made me feel that travel was special and made me proud to fly the flag. This is no mean feat, seeing as I am writing this at 6.30am in the departure lounge of Geneva airport, feeling dreadful.

As an advertising professional, I admire BA's ability to solve the perennial conundrums of our business: its ads have always managed to be both modern and traditional, and they have trodden the path between theme and scheme.

Sadly, no-one seems to be able to find the first commercial that BA ran on television, which is a pity because it would have been a good place to start. But it seems that living memory begins in 1983 with the first work from Saatchi & Saatchi - "Manhattan" (2).

The ad was built on an insight, with some statistical massaging, that more people flew with BA than any other airline, indeed, a number equivalent to flying the whole population of Manhattan across the pond. A fact that made BA "The World's Favourite Airline". Add this to some Ridley Scott scale and you have the breakthrough advertising that set the tone for the campaign for the next 20 years. It might look a bit dated now, but at the time it was a thumper.

Then we come to the redeye (3). You knew the bloke was a git but you couldn't help wanting to be him. Business travel was well and truly established.

And, as you vault time zones, making 250 flights a year, you can take your daughter to see Father Christmas. Charming ad. Great casting (5).

Around now, you begin to doubt the sense and pleasure of air travel, regardless of the perks. Yet you are dragged back by an ad that maroons thousands of people on a desert salt pan, each holding nothing more than a piece of coloured card (1). On the one hand, the ad is a celebration of BA's power to unite people but, on the other, you can't help but wonder if it is a threat. A promise of what BA would do if you strayed from its fold? Whatever, it is a classy masterbrand ad.

BA might be the "world's favourite airline" but here in Britain we didn't believe it. Negative PR and the general failure to believe that we are any good at anything meant we wanted proof (6). So let's get a Yank to extol our virtues in the style of Great British understatement. Of course, it's beautifully shot, but the writing is even better.

At this point, you would be forgiven if you needed to lie down. Bring on the flat bed (4). If there is a better execution of the simple brutal truth in an ad, then I can't think of it.

That's it. I have struggled to gate A2 now, only to find there is a delay and that I am to sit next to the screaming baby. It really isn't that different to travelling by coach, but as soon as I step on the plane it still feels like I'm back in Britain. These ads have to have something to do with that.

1. BRITISH AIRWAYS Title: Global Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi Year: 1989 2. BRITISH AIRWAYS Title: Manhattan Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi Year: 1983 3. CLUB WORLD LAUNCH Title: Boardroom Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi Year: 1988 4. FLAT BED Title: Club World - Times Square Agency: M&C Saatchi Year: 2003 5. CONCORDE Title: I don't believe in Concorde Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi Year: 1990 6. BRITISH AIRWAYS Title: 17 million Agency: M&C Saatchi Year: 1999

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