Suppliers and agencies are bracing themselves for swingeing cuts in
airline direct marketing budgets, as the effects of the terrorist
attacks in the US on 11 September begin to bite.
The chief casualties of the airline industry crisis to date are agencies
and suppliers to cash-strapped British Airways (BA), which is slashing
its advertising and direct marketing spend.
BA is particularly exposed to the collapse in demand for North American
business travel and is culling its cost base as a result.
DM agencies Carlson and Claydon Heeley Jones Mason have both been
dropped from BA's roster. A BA spokesperson said that this was due to
"commercial pressures and nothing to do with their performance".
TMW has been retained as BA's lead agency, with support from Black
Meanwhile, BA has told Communisis Chorleys, the direct mailing and
database house responsible for BA's Smart Award-winning Executive Club
News (ECN), that all marketing activity is under review, including
Richard Marshall, new business development director at TMW, says BA is
now likely to have "an even greater focus on data-driven communications,
especially with its most valuable customers".
Other DM suppliers serving the travel market are drawing up contingency
plans for communications in the light of the turmoil.
David Moody, the account director in charge of Avis and First Choice at
agency Perspectives Red Cell, says travel companies need to reassure
people about flying and stimulate demand with promotional activity.
Holiday firms, normally rigid in their communications schedules, "should
be prepared to be more flexible", says Moody. He believes that travel
companies will, in the short-term, shift away from brand-awareness
activity through TV and the national press to generating demand via
door-drops, loose inserts and e-mail. Rod Eddington, BA's chief
executive, has been using e-mail to reassure its Executive Club members
about the airline's security measures.
Overall, suppliers believe travel clients will look to kick-start the
market in whatever way possible. Gurdev Singh, a director of Communisis
Chorleys, says: "A lot of airlines concentrate on business travel and
neglect the consumer. There is a huge market out there for tourists,
particularly on short-haul flights."
Says Marshall: "We've had these tragic events in the US, but the worst
way for companies to react is to do nothing. You need to keep customers
loyal to your brand in these difficult times."