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Gotham Preps First Ads for Citi AAdvantage

Outdoor/online effort coming in early 2013

Gotham is developing its first campaign for the Citi AAdvantage credit card as the bank and airline restore a lead agency model for their joint brand.

In recent years, the companies used agencies on a project basis, with either Publicis Kaplan Thaler, the lead creative shop for Citi, or McCann Erickson, lead agency for American Airlines, creating ads.

Now, the credit card brand has its own agency, as it did years ago when Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners produced the memorable “Or was it the miles?” campaign, which ran from 1994 until 1999

Gotham landed the account after a review in which there were three other finalists. Sources identified the other shops as Arnold in Boston, Havas Worldwide in Chicago and 22Squared in Atlanta. The card’s media spending is expected to grow next year to about $25 million.

Gotham’s first work will likely include ads that will appear in airports, online and at Citi branches. Social media marketing also will be in the mix. The campaign will break during the first quarter of next year.

In its winning pitch, Gotham “showcased an awareness of the brands, a strategy to target our consumers and a capacity to bring new and creative ideas to the forefront,” said Elyssa Gray, a director and head of creative and media for Citi’s consumer business in North America.

Jennifer Block, vp of co-brand partnerships at American Airlines, added that the airline and bank are “eager to capitalize on and benefit from the agency’s varied strengths.”

The account puts Gotham back into the financial services category, seven years after Bank of America left. Neil Smith, a group account director with past experience on Bank of America and Ally Bank (at previous agency, Bartle Bogle Hegarty), will manage the business.

Gotham CEO Nick Johnson sees the Citi AAdvantage assignment as an opportunity to break with category conventions, such as glossy ads that feature vacation destinations.

“Citi and American Airlines came together 25 years ago to bring the first airline affinity cards to market and … they are looking to shake things up in the very category that they created,” Johnson said. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to be the agency they chose to partner with.”

Media spending on the card exceeded $9 million in the first half of 2012, according to Nielsen. Last year, spending totaled just around $4 million. Those figures don't include online spending.

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