Fallon Going Tagless for United

Carrier’s Name Is Unstated Theme of Emotional ‘Rising’ Successor
CHICAGO–The epiphany came for Fallon McElligott and United Airlines when they realized the Big Idea was staring them in the face.
“Everyone got stuck on [creating a] tag,” said John Kiker, United’s vice president for advertising and communications. “I asked David [Lubars] if we really needed a tag, and we determined that with a name like United, you really didn’t.”
“We had a big ‘Duh!’ moment,” said Lubars, Fallon’s president and creative director. “All we needed to do was focus on the word.”
The result is the successor to the much-maligned “Rising” campaign. While that work addressed the failings of the airline industry, the ads that broke over the weekend are more emotional, built around a unstated theme, “United to create a better journey,” Kiker said.
Fallon’s initial pool of spots–one 30- and two 60-second ads–shows people coming together at exotic locales. A voiceover from actor Liam Neeson explains that United flies to more places than anyone else “because it’s important for the human race to stay United.”
The spots close with an airborne plane and United’s name and logo.
The campaign plays on people’s need to make face-to-face contact, Lubars said. “Other companies talk about uniting through their product, but this is what [United] does every day,” he said.
While “road warrior” business travelers remain a key target, the new ads are intended to be more relevant to leisure travelers and United’s employees, Kiker said.
Though backed by Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and similar in approach to work created by former agency Leo Burnett, Kiker denied the campaign is a regression. “I don’t see it as going back to the ‘Friendly Skies’; it’s going back to the things that are uniquely United,” he said.
Print ads use phrases such as “Be United” and “Feel United,” along with pictures of people connecting. They break today in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.
The Elk Grove, Ill.-based carrier spent four months seeking a successor to Fallon’s 3-year-old “Rising” campaign, which United acknowledged was too intellectual and esoteric for general consumers.
“We don’t regret [that campaign] at all,” Kiker said. “It did us a lot of good and helped us learn what we needed to improve on.”
The company in October asked Fallon, which handles domestic advertising, and Young & Rubicam, New York, its international agency, to find a new direction. “It was never a competition, though I think they felt it was, which was probably a good thing,” Kiker said. He said the new theme came from Fallon.
“We’re going to continue to look for great ideas from both agencies, and if we don’t get it, we’ll look elsewhere,” Kiker said.
The new platform will also allow United to focus on its “deliverable” services, such as its Economy Plus seating and Web site (www.ual.com), Kiker said. The first ads in that area are due to break later in the quarter.
Y&R’s international work will also use the “United” theme, but likely be even more focused on the deliverable services, Kiker said.