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McCann Erickson and American Airlines recall the glory days of flying

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As the competition between the major transcontinental airlines becomes more fraught than ever, American Airlines have launched a new campaign that celebrates the aviation firms illustrious history. Created by globally renowned ad agency McCann Erickson, the campaign started this January with a brace of spots in entertainment trade publications and on websites, before hitting consumer publications earlier this month. The campaign was spearheaded by the New York and Dallas branches of McCann Erickson, and focuses on how AA was the first US based airline to offer non-stop transcontinental flights (both eastbound and westbound) back in 1953.

The idea behind the campaign is to connect the glamour of the past with the product of the future.

The campaign features glamorous actors from both the mid 50's and today, such as Gregory Peck, Grace Kelly (then), Neil Patrick Harris and Julianna Margulies (today), ably demonstrating how some things never change, but there's always room for reinvention. This reinvention comes in the form of the new Airbus A321 aircraft, which will fly from Kennedy International Airport in New York to San Francisco International and Los Angeles International this summer, with 13 flights scheduled daily on the LA route and 5 to San Francisco. The new Airbuses will be the only American carriers to cater to all three classes of service, with the first-class cabins including 10 'fully lie-flat' seats and the business-class cabin including 20. There will also be in-flight Wi-FI and in-seat entertainment including throughout all classes.

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Executive creative director of McCann Erickson, Vann Graves, said the initial concept for the campaign was inspired by the DC-7 aircraft, which flew the first American transcontinental service. The agency was inspired by the famous passengers who flew these routes, including (alongside Peck and Kelly) Walt Disney, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn and Nat King Cole. He said the idea behind the campaign was to “Connect the glamour of the past with the new product.”

The captions read “In 1953 we invented transcontinental service,” beneath the classic Milton Greene snaps and then the modern photos on the facing page states “Today, we reinvent it."

The new print adverts will feature two, four and eight page spreads featuring photos of Kelly and Peck taken by Milton Greene and photos of Margulies and Harris by fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier; they are all in black and white, with only the red, white and blue AA logo revealing any traces of colour. The captions read “In 1953 we invented transcontinental service,” beneath the classic Milton Greene snaps and then the modern photos on the facing page states “Today, we reinvent it.” Supplementing the print ads are 15-second digital videos featuring vintage black and white films of the 50's AA service juxtaposed with 2014 colour counterparts, these ads are already in solid rotation on websites like The LA Times and Wired.

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Fern Fernandez, the vice president of global marketing for American Airlines, said they chose Ms. Margulies and Mr. Harris because they are “Active travellers on American,” and that they were the types of customers they were trying to attract. It's not just celebrities the airline is courting though, indeed they also wish to appeal to those in the high-tech industries and “Folks normally targeted for corporate sales.” The campaign (which is expected to cost over $1 million) was introduced in earnest during the award season in mid-February and will begin running in entertainment industry trade publications like Variety and the Hollywood Reporter from later this month through until June. It will also run the ads in broadsheet papers such as The Financial Times and The Wall Street journal, as well as magazines such as The Economist and Popular Mechanics.

Official McCann Erickson Website

Official American Airlines Website

Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance copywriter who has never flown on a transcontinental American flight. But if he ever did, he wouldn't half fancy traveling in one of those fancy airbuses!

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