EDITORIAL: Go pushes easyJet into regular ad fold

Stelios Hadji-Ioannou, easyJet's founder, and the Saatchi brothers have a lot in common. Entrepreneurial, creative, innovative and with no respect for convention, they've all ensured that their respective industries will never be the same again because of what they've done.

If it wasn't for the small complication of the British Airways account residing in Golden Square, easyJet and M&C Saatchi look like a client and agency made for each other. It wouldn't happen, of course. And not just because of BA. Hadji-Ioannou is as much a maverick in the way he promotes his budget airline as in the way he runs it. He's always shunned the agency route, firmly believing that he best understands what his customers want, how best to communicate with them and the value of his ebullient personality in generating miles of PR.

That was fine when easyJet could present itself as the "people's champion taking on the might of the airline establishment, a cosy cabal of dinosaurs grown complacent and inefficient on rip-off prices.

EasyJet's takeover of Go is a defining moment in its evolution. Not least because it will no longer be a minnow. Ironically, the deal turns easyJet into into the kind of sizeable player Hadji-Ioannou has always mocked.

A sign of a more realistic approach to advertising was the announcement that David Magliano, Go's sales and marketing director, will take the top marketing job in the merged operation. Working through HHCL & Partners, Go has reconciled the problem of presenting itself as a low-cost operation while building its brand. It has communicated its position as the choice of the savvy airline passenger rather than a cheap and cheerful alternative.

Hadji-Ioannou no longer has the advantage that came with being one of the first into the no-frills sector. The major carriers have wised up with price cuts. EasyJet will soon find it can't just get away with big orange ads showing a price and a phone number. Hadji-Ioannou will inevitably become less effective as an advertising frontman as his airline grows and as consumers grow more questioning about the no-frills offering in general.

EasyJet's idiosyncratic approach to advertising is hard to knock and any agency taking it on would be crazy not to build on the equity the company has created. But the game has moved on, quality issues must be addressed, while retaining a brand identity will grow more difficult.

Stewardship of the brand is of crucial importance along with consultancy services an agency will provide. It's time for easyJet to come on board.