Etihad Airways Selects Cheil, Barbarian Group for Digital, Social

By Erik Oster 

United Arab Emirates-based airline Etihad Airways has selected Cheil Worldwide and Barbarian Group as its digital and social-media agencies as the company looks to expand westward, Adweek reports. The news follows the brand’s recent selection of Starcom as its media agency earlier this month.

You may remember the airline from its “Flying Reimagined” spot from lead creative agency M&C Saatchi in March (featured above), starring Nicole Kidman and emphasizing the brand’s luxury and innovation. Etihad Airways is making the luxury market its priority, with an emphasis on its “three-room suite” Residence offering.

Etihad vice president of marketing Andrew Ward told Adweek there’s “an important corporate market in the U.S. that we want to tap into, so we need to develop our brand presence.” He said the company selected Cheil because “we felt that we required a specialist in digital marketing.” That makes sense, given the company’s increased emphasis on the format, increasing digital ad spending from 5 percent several years ago to 50 percent in 2016. “Cheil understood us as a brand, is genuinely passionate about air travel and showed an instinct for the brand that was pleasantly surprising at pitch level,” he said, adding that Barbarian Group was chosen for its flexibility as well as being “very much a modern agency rather than a traditional agency.”

Etihad is not abandoning its broadcast advertising, however, and M&C Saatchi will remain the brand’s lead creative agency. Ward says he is “a strong believer in the power of TV” but that “The correct media mix is important.”


Cheil Worldwide and Barbarian Group will work with M&C Saatchi on the “Flying Reimagined” campaign going forward, providing digital and social support for the campaign, including display ads and branded content. As Barbarian Group CEO Sophie Kelly puts it, “We will be driving the creative content strategy and design experiences that will turn ‘Flying reimagined’ into a highly curated, customized experience across the digital ecosystem to satisfy [Etihad’s] business goals.”