Spirit Airlines Launches New Ad Strategy

'Hug the haters'

Bad news for all of you who are fans of Spirit Airlines' advertising: Today, the ultra-low-price carrier known for its risqué advertising—to put it gently—launches a new consumer educational campaign that aims to be "provocative with a purpose."

After selecting Kansas City, Mo.-based Barkley last November, Spirit is debuting a new ad strategy, online ad videos and website aimed at explaining Spirit’s no-frills business model.

"Our fares are 40 percent lower than the competition and we do things differently in order to offer that," said CEO Ben Baldanza. "So with this, we’re saying ‘Let’s own what we are and make it very clear and transparent about the consumer tradeoffs.’ "

Those tradeoffs are laid out in Spirit's unbundled ‘Bare Fare,’ and include no free baggage or drinks, less leg room in non-reclining seats, no WiFi or video. Given that, it’s no wonder Spirit has gained the dubious distinction as the "most complained-about airline" in the U.S. based on Department of Transportation data. This new effort is dubbed "Hug the Haters" and Baldanza unapologetically explained that while most airlines market against their competitors, Spirit’s attitude is more along the lines of, "If a passenger doesn’t like Spirit, they can pay $50 more and go elsewhere."

As part of the new effort, Spirit is launching its first new tagline since the '90s, promising flyers “Less Money, More Go.” (It earlier used “Catch the Spirit.”) The carrier is introducing a new logo and branding with the color bright yellow. New online ads show two young attractive flyers peeling off layers of clothing to strip down to underwear in a show of baggage economy.

In line with Spirit’s budget model, the airline spends only around $5 million on media, all in digital. Last year, that didn’t put off agencies interested in picking up the carrier’s business with more than 60 responding to the original RFP in a review that came down to Barkley, The Richards Group, Dallas and Walrus, New York.      

Baldanza hasn’t sworn off his penchant for ads playing off current events. He said he thought about creating one using V. Stiviano, the visor-wearing former mistress of racist L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling. While Baldanza said he still thinks anyone in the middle of public controversy is fair game in advertising, even he has his standards and stopped short on creating an ad around the Clippers scandal, not wanting to offend anyone.