Etihad Airways Partner airlines choose Starcom for global media

By Emily Tan

Publicis Groupe-owned Starcom has won the global media planning and buying account for Etihad Airways and its three largest partner airlines Alitalia, Air Berlin and Jet Airways.

Several agency networks had been invited to pitch for the consolidated account in April, including Etihad Airways’ incumbent agency MediaCom. Incumbents for the other airlines involved were OMD for Air Berlin, Mindshare for Alitalia and Dentsu Aegis Network for Jet Airways.

The combined media spend of all the airlines is unknown. But when MediaCom and Digitas LBi won Etihad’s media and digital accounts respectively in 2012, the estimated spend was $160 million.

Starcom, which is part of Starcom Mediavest Group (SMG), has been tasked with delivering scaled benefits for the Etihad Airways Partner (EAP) airlines by aligning media spend across key markets and providing centralised and strategic advice to meet the airline grouping’s unique commercial needs.

Starcom will service the EAP business from key hubs in the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Italy and India, with central co-ordination from its EMEA head office in London.

Shane O’Hare, Etihad Airways’ senior vice-president of marketing, said: “Starcom demonstrated that they fully understand the emerging media scene which has digital media at its core. Their highly experienced team, resources, planning tools and buying clout in all the key EAP markets gave them a clear edge in the tender.

“The depth of the relationships within the EAP allows us to go even further with our joint media strategy alignment, and will allow Starcom to maximise returns on our collective investment and to ensure that each unique brand experience is brought to life with optimum exposure on a global scale.”

EAP launched in October last year. The alliance also includes Air Serbia, Air Seychelles and Etihad Regional. Last August, Etihad bought a 49 per cent stake in Alitalia for $2.4 billion and has since launched a rebrand.

“This new partnership kicks off at a very exciting time for Alitalia,” said Ariodante Valeri, Alitalia’s chief commercial officer. “We have just launched the new livery of Alitalia aircraft, the new design of the cabins and new premium services for our guests. Alitalia is rapidly increasing its global reach with new long-haul services between Italy and China, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates, areas of the world which are rapidly growing.”

The agreement with Starcom, he continued, will bring “significant synergies” for the partnership group and will allow Alitalia better access to traditional and digital media in all key markets.

Matt Blackborn, president for investment and diversification at SMG, added: “This is a unique client brief and relationship as it brings together multiple brands from the same industry and is ground-breaking in the agency world.”

This story was first published on Campaign Asia.