Embattled Qantas looks to ‘reconnect’ with passengers with TV-led brand push

Qantas has unveiled its first TV-led brand campaign since 2012 as it seeks to “reconnect and re-engage” with Australians after a torrid few years for the airline.

The carrier is drawing on the oft-cited emotional pull Australians feel towards Qantas by featuring five “real stories” of Aussies returning home from overseas in a campaign called “feels like home”.

A two-minute commercial, which airs from Sunday, depicts the emotional reunion of five passengers with their loved ones in Australia, all shot in real time. A series of five shorter ads featuring individual stories will roll out over the coming weeks.

In a surprise move, Qantas selected Lawrence Creative Strategy to produce the work rather than Droga5 although the airline insisted it did not mean the agency has been dropped.

“We use different agencies for different executions,” a spokesman said.

Qantas group executive brand, marketing and corporate affairs Olivia Wirth told a media briefing this morning it was the “right time to rengage” with customers after a challenging period.

She said research constantly reveals that when Australians see the “red tail of Qantas it reminds them of home”.

The campaign will not only aim to build on the emotional connection and bond between the public and the airline but also reinvigorate staff who, Wirth admitted, have been low on morale after a “challenging” period which has seen a raft of job losses.

Key to the emotional essence of the campaign are the “real and authentic” stories depicted in the TV executions, she added, although she confirmed they were all paid to appear in the ad.

“It’s about the pull of home, the love of family and friends and how Qantas makes that happen both across Australia and around the globe,” she explained.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said: “We often hear that seeing the red tail at an airport or stepping on board a Qantas aircraft makes Australians feel like they’re halfway home already. That’s the spirit we wanted to capture.”

The ads are set against the musical backdrop of Randy Newman’s song Feels Like Home, sung by 20-year-old Australian singer Martha Marlow. It is the second high profile Qantas brand campaign not to feature its I Still Call Australia Home “anthem”, although Wirth insisted the song will remain part of the airline’s marketing armory.

Executive creative director Neil Lawrence said I Still Call Australia Home was considered but ultimately not used.

“Creatively it was hard to reinvent it,” he said, adding that retaining the “home” messaging was important.

“When we started looking as this project we had to make sure were going to evolve it, we didn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, the baby being the emotional and sense of home. It’s an evolution of that campaign,” he said.

Lawrence added that Visibility, the firm commissioned to conduct research during the early stages of the project, said it had never experienced such emotion and fondness towards a brand.

“It’s well documented in advertising that a lot of decisions you make have a rational explanation but a true emotional driver. The research firm has never seen a reaction to any other brand like it so it would have been foolish not to exploit that,” he said.

Wirth declined to reveal the investment, describing it as “not insubstantial”, and refused to be drawn on the measurements of success although she said “clearly we have targets”.

“From a business perspective when you have a strong brand that impacts on the yield and ticket sales so there is a business driver,” she said. “But more importantly it’s about investing in the brand and evolving the brand and making sure it continues to be seen as the Australian icon that it is.”

She added the Feels Like Home campaign would be in market “for the long term” with a first phase likely to last around six months, with cinema, digital, press, social media and out-of-home all playing major supporting roles.

Lawrence said there was a “massive amount” of footage from the ad production that will provide strong additional content over the coming months.

The campaign has been seven months in the planning with Lawrence telling media that while the emotional essence of the campaign may seem obvious “its sometimes the obvious that is missed” by agencies and clients.

The launch will take the brand battle back to Virgin Australia which released its own marketing push in September.

Since then, the airline has focused predominantly on tactical and product-led campaigns while digital, predictably, is playing an increasingly pivotal role.

Its sponsorship of The Voice earlier this year also helped push a brand message.

But Wirth told Mumbrella in July there was a “time and place” for brand advertising and hinted that a TV-led brand push was in the mix.

That time and place was certainly not during the past 18 months, according to industry observers, who suggested any high profile brand messaging would have been wasted as Qantas battled the unions over job losses before becoming embroiled in a debate over its ownership structure.


Creative Agency: Lawrence Creative Strategy

Executive Creative Director & Copywriter: Neil Lawrence

Creative Directors: Chris Mitchell, Geoff Corbett

Client Service Directors: Tanya Jones, Fleur Marks

Agency Producer: George Saada

Production: Exit Films

Director: Mark Malloy

Producer: Martin Box

DOP: Chayse Irwin

Editors: The Editors: Stewart Reeves, Peter Barton, Dave Lawrence

Post Production: Alt VFX

Colourist: Ben Eagleton

Music: Mark Rivett, Ramesh Sathiah @ Song Zu

Composer: Randy Newman

Vocal Artist: Martha Marlow

Steve Jones


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