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GSD&M Competing With Other Agencies for Southwest Airlines' Fall Campaign

Carrier wants more agency support
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Participants in Southwest Airlines’ search for additional agency support will be working on ideas for a national fall ad campaign even as the company’s longtime shop GSD&M develops creative strategy for that same initiative.

Linda Rutherford, Southwest Airlines vp of communications and strategic outreach, declined to elaborate on the scope of the assignment in review. She explained the timing of the search by noting the expansion underway at the Dallas-based airline. This year the company will begin integrating AirTran Airways into its Southwest fleet, following the completion of that acquisition last year. Southwest is also looking at expanding its routes beyond America’s lower 48 states.

“We don’t (look at outside agencies) very often and with everything that’s going on with Southwest we thought it’s a good time to see what additional agency firepower there is out there,” Rutherford said.

Through September 2011, Southwest spent $168.3 million on measured media advertising and $8.5 million on AirTran, for a total of $176.8 million, according to Nielsen. For the full year of  2010, Southwest spent $190. 2 million and Air Tran spent $10.5 million, for a total of  $200.7 million. Those amounts do not include Internet or b-to-b spending.

Santa Monica-based SelectResources International, which is handling the search process, did not respond to an Adweek inquiry about the review process or criteria for agency involvement. GSD&M has been invited to participate in the review and Rutherford said she expects the agency, which has worked with Southwest for 30 years, to do so. Regardless of the review outcome, GSD&M will remain a Southwest agency partner, Rutherford said. The Texas-based shop declined to comment.

In addition to GSD&M, Southwest works with four other agencies: marketing services company Wunderman, digital agency VML,  Hispanic shop Dieste and Asian American agency Dae Advertising.

Southwest typically refreshes its creative strategy every fall as the airline buys significant ad time around sports milestones, like the kick-off of the NFL season.