Holding Cos. Book Return for Emirates’ Next Round

NEW YORK Holding companies participating in Emirates Airlines’ account consolidation review are preparing for the next round of meetings in mid-August, with a decision expected in September, sources said. The review covers global creative marketing services, including those beyond traditional advertising such as direct, digital and event marketing.

Participating in the competition are Publicis Groupe, with its Saatchi & Saatchi unit taking the lead and working with siblings like Leo Burnett; Omnicom, represented by BBDO; WPP Group’s Grey; and Interpublic, represented by Draftfcb and Lowe. Holding company and agency execs that met with Emirates July 22 in Dubai are offering various resources to the airline, which currently works with a multitude of agencies around the world. Saatchi, BBDO and Grey are already on Emirates’ roster.
Last year, the airline consolidated global media duties at Publicis’ Starcom MediaVest.
Agency reps either declined comment or could not be reached. Emirates execs did not respond to interview requests.
The business is pegged at $300 million-plus in billings, with a heavy emphasis on sports tied to Emirates’ sponsorship of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. (Spending in measured media in the U.S. was about $5.5 million in 2008, per Nielsen. That does not include digital or direct outlays.) But some sources believe that global number to be inflated and irrelevant compared to fees to be paid out to the holding company units.
“Look at the condition of the airline industry. I know [Emirates] have big ambitions, but I’d be amazed if they even spend $100 million,” said one observer.
Others have questioned the financial underpinnings of the government-owned airline, amid speculation about Dubai’s economy, which is heavily dependent on real estate development, tourism and financial services, in the wake of the global economic crash.
While Emirates is not a well-known brand in the U.S., the airline is the industry’s fastest growing, with annual growth rates of at least 20 percent since its 1985 inception. It began with two leased jets and now has a fleet of 135 aircraft and a current order book of more than 160 planes valued at $50 billion. Emirates wants to develop Dubai into a long-haul global aviation hub.