Emirates banks on Aniston ads to fuel airline publicity

Emirates banks on Aniston ads to fuel airline publicity
Emirates banks on Aniston ads to fuel airline publicity

The Emirates airline company has invested over $20 million in getting an A-list celebrity, Jennifer Aniston, into its ad spots.

One of the biggest press items trending on Middle Eastern news site Zawya this week is a headline with an audio interview, where an airline executive talks about the strategic advertising initiative that promotes both the first-class and economy travel experiences that the national airline offers.

“She resonated with our audiences around the world,” Emirates Senior Vice President of Advertising Chris Galanto told interviewers in the audio broadcast.

The audio piece also features a clip from one of two advertisements, and shows that the airline’s investment was sequential, starting with an initial ad buy focused on premium or first-class travel.

In the course of the interview, Galanto also gets asked about the return on investment, and how the company justified making this big advertising move -- twice.

“It went viral,” Galanto said of the first video.

Suggesting that the initial ad got 36 million views due to the nuances of its storyline and the popularity of the star, Galanto believes the big audience reaction means the airline’s money was well spent, even in a competitive atmosphere where many different regional airlines struggle for market share in their own ways.

Emirates' ad move is certainly an interesting one, and its decision to tie its wagon firmly to Aniston's stardom presents an interesting case study in how companies try to break out of the box in marketing, and when and how these efforts obtain the desired results.

Mark Blake is a marketing professor at York College in Pennsylvania. In a recent interview, he described a strategy behind the process of getting well-known and well-liked American TV stars into the kinds of commercial roles exemplified by Aniston in the Emirates ads.

“You maximize your exposure,” Blake told Gulf News Journal.

He continued by noting that, for mass marketing to a broad audience, Aniston is a great choice.

“She's a well-liked celebrity,” Blake said. “She's somebody that people watch when they come home from work, on cable TV. She has incredible appeal -- out of that cast (“Friends” television show of the 1990s), she kind of became a star.”

However, Blake cautioned against using this type of star power indiscriminately, suggesting that marketing to the first-class and economy audiences for an airline involves two very different challenges. Depending on how a celebrity’s commercial role is used, Blake said, it's possible that the company might not target the right audience. The best bet, he said, is using someone like Aniston in a broader, more relatable context.

That's what Emirates does, sitting Aniston in its economy class seats to try, as Galanto said, to show how proud the airline is of its economy class. After all, the bulk of an airline's customer base sits in those same seats, and there's a lot to be said for promoting the flagship products that help average airline travelers get where they need to be.