Southwest Airlines’ Review Enters Final Stages

Carrier is rethinking positioning after gobbling up AirTran

Southwest Airlines’ search for strategic and creative help has reached the final four stage.

The remaining contenders, which sources identified as TBWA\Chiat\Day in Playa del Rey, Calif.; Deutsch LA in Marina del Rey, Calif.; Leo Burnett in Chicago; and Arnold in Boston, will be briefed this week at Southwest’s headquarters in Dallas. Final presentations are slated for next month.

The finalists, which declined to comment, emerged from a pack of eight agencies that visited Southwest in the past two weeks. The other shops included BBDO in New York; The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va.; and DDB in Chicago.

The airline is rethinking its strategic positioning in the wake of its $1 billion acquisition of AirTran, which expands Southwest’s geographic footprint and passenger base. Southwest now claims to carry more passengers in the U.S. than any other airline.

In its initial request for proposals, the airline defined the assignment as “thought leadership” in refining its brand positioning; the development of an associated fall campaign; and help with local and national campaigns, as needed.

Current lead agency GSD&M in Austin, Texas, will remain on the creative roster to handle consumer marketing and advertising around the AirTran integration, according to the RFP.

Key decision makers in the review include chief marketing officer Dave Ridley; Kevin Krone, vp of marketing, sales and distribution; and Michael Van Houweling, senior director of product and brand marketing.

Not in play are Southwest’s media planning and buying business, digital marketing and multicultural advertising. Select Resources International in Santa Monica, Calif., is managing the search.

A Southwest representative acknowledged the cut but declined to confirm the agencies. The airline plans to complete its search by the end of May.

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