ATA Confronts Rivals on Price

American Trans Air targets business travelers with a humorous campaign from Publicis in Mid America in which a heavyset man asks fliers, “Whadjapay?”

The $10-15 million effort—which includes TV, print and radio—breaks Aug. 7 and is tagged, “Whadjapay? Next time fly ATA.” It’s the first work from Publicis since the Indianapolis carrier assigned the project.

ATA did not choose a lead agency in March after it conducted an 11-month review involving several Chicago shops. The airline previously handled its advertising in-house.

The new positioning moves away from its longtime “ATA, you’re on vacation” theme and jingle, which boasted of an ability to carry customers away from their cares for an affordable price.

Five 30-second TV branding spots and five 30-second promotional spots were developed to lead the effort. All feature a quizzical, heavyset man confronting business travelers about the price of their tickets. He asks how much they paid and laughs and gyrates hysterically when told the exorbitant price.

“The goal was to burn in the notion of how ridiculously humorous it is that we pay so much for tickets because we as business travelers think we have to,” said Barry Krause, Publicis’ chairman and CEO.

Krause helped contribute to the idea after a trip to New York cost $1,400, nearly 10 times ATA’s fare.

“We didn’t want to preach, but we wanted to point out the competition’s expensive prices, Krause said.

The campaign was created by copywriter Richard Coad and art director Cliff Goodenough.

Following its lengthy review, ATA officials said that the company had decided to delay hiring a lead agency. Publicis was only hired on a project basis. Client executives could not be reached.

The airline is undergoing a major revamp to gain a position in the competitive business travel marketplace. In October, it opened a hub at Chicago’s Midway airport and purchased 50 Boeing planes, all equipped with leather seats throughout the airplane and individual entertainment units.

Future spots will tout those features in addition to ATA’s prices, Krause said.

Media for ATA is handled by Kelly, Scott & Madison, Chicago. Hispanic marketing is done by San Jose & Associates, Chicago.