GSD&M Helps Southwest Move Across the Country

On Sept. 15, Southwest Airlines will initiate nonstop service between Baltimore and Los Angeles, in effect, going head-to-head with established carriers like Delta and American Airlines.

Among the questions being raised: How will Southwest’s folksy, no-frills, short-haul image—and enormous popularity—crafted by GSD&M over the past 20 years play in the highly competitive transcontinental arena?

“The time is right,” said Joyce Rogge, the airline’s senior vice president of marketing. “Customers, looking to go across country for family and business needs, are finding it harder and harder to do. We’re the perfect solution.”

On one level, the decision to undertake the new routes, sources said, was driven by recent tax levies that favor long-haul travel and an expansion of Southwest’s fleet to include roomier 737-700 jets. It is also a natural evolution of the airline’s “connect-the-dots” strategy to become a national player.

At GSD&M in Aus-tin, Texas, the Southwest creative team of Brent Ladd, Steve Miller and Mark Ray is upgrading the ongoing “You’re now free to move around the country” campaign. New retail messaging will tout the introductory $99 one-way fare.

“We’ll use existing ads,” said Rogge. “It doesn’t require new branding spots to tell consumers something new is happening.”

Camelot Communications in Dallas, which handles media planning and buying on the $100 million account, will place 10-second radio and 30-second television spots as well as print ads in Baltimore and Los Angeles.

Southwest, founded by San Antonio lawyer Herb Kelleher and now run by his former secretary, Colleen Barrett, is betting its brand image as “Everybody’s hometown airline” will help ensure the success of the cross-country routes.

“This is not going to affect the tone or style of our advertising,” said GSD&M spokesman Eric Webber. “The company is exactly the same. They take their business, but not themselves, very seriously.”