We Hear: United Retains mcgarrybowen as Creative AOR After a Closed Review

By Patrick Coffee 

Details as usual are sparse at the moment, but we hear that United Airlines has decided to keep its global advertising account with creative AOR mcgarrybowen after a closed review.

The client did not provide much in the way of context but did give us a statement:

“There’s no change to our roster of agencies, which has included and continues to include mcgarrybowen and others.”

The United spokesperson declined to comment on the review or to officially confirm whether it had occurred, letting us know that “[we] can’t help you there.” Again, the review was closed according to our sources, and it’s not clear at this time which other agencies pitched against mcgarrybowen.

The Dentsu shop beat out TBWA and Arnold to win the business back in 2011, right after United Continental Holdings was born of the merger between the two airline giants.

United has also worked with Wunderman New York on the direct mail side of the business, and Horizon won the media account in the same 2011 review mentioned above. In 2013 AdAge reported that the company was in talks with WPP over developing a dedicated media shop to handle its business, but that development does not appear to have come to pass. The client’s roster also included MEC and Vantage as recently as late 2015.

mcgarrybowen’s best-known work for the client may be the in-flight videos like this one, which went live last week.

The review coincided with some difficulties at the still relatively new company: after settling with investors to avoid a “proxy fight,” United Continental reported a decline in net income for Q1 last week, attributing much of the 38% year over year drop to a change in its approach to tax policy. Three members of the company’s board including non-executive chairman Henry Meyer agreed to step down, and on Friday CEO Oscar Munoz responded by buying $1MM worth of his own company’s stock.

Munoz’s predecessor Jeff Smiseck resigned last September amid claims of ethics breaches relating to his relationship with David Samson, the former chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who also resigned from his position due to his actions as part of governor and former presidential candidate Chris Christie’s 2014 “Bridgegate” scandal.