“There’s Lots Of Humans In Airline Ads, But Not Much Humanity”: BWM Dentsu

“There’s Lots Of Humans In Airline Ads, But Not Much Humanity”: BWM Dentsu

Creative agency BWM Dentsu has just launched its first work for Qantas in a series of ads and assets about the airline’s employees. We had a sit down with the agency’s head honchos, ECD Ash Naidu and MD Alex Carr, for a behind-the-scenes look at the campaign and whether it lived up to the Flying Kangaroo’s acclaimed ‘Welcome Home’.

Emma Mackenzie
Posted by Emma Mackenzie

The vehicle tailing the crew was packed with family members. While the packed carload wasn’t in ad, they were supporting their kin who was one of the stars in the latest campaign for Qantas. It was a poignant moment, reminisced Ash Naidu, the creative mind behind the two-week old campaign.

The executive creative director at BWM Dentsu said the quirks and stories of each Qantas staffer in the spots showcased their passion for the job. It brought a smile to his face when he sat down for a chat with us.

The campaign coming from BWM Dentsu is the creative agency’s first work for Qantas since winning the account last November. The series highlights four Qantas employees, their jobs, tales and what makes them them.

While Naidu and managing director Alex Carr are thrilled how the campaign turned out, there was underlying pressure from the airline’s previous campaign ‘Welcome Home’, which brand manager Olivia Wirth said they had to hand out tissues to focus group members when it first launched.

“What we took from the ‘Welcome Home’ piece that we loved, tonally and also thematically, was the humanity of it,” said Carr.

“There’s a lot of humans in airline ads, but there’s not much humanity, and there’s a huge amount of humanity in the ‘Welcome Home’ piece because it’s true.”

Carr noted it’s hard for agencies to swoop in on another’s work – the ‘Welcome Home’ campaign was developed by Lawrence Creative Strategy – and create something that feels the same. “It was a huge challenge.”

And the trouble with just asking employees to tell the camera why they love their job is it turns into a cheesy testimonial piece. Which was why they had to interject the titbits and stories, explained Naidu.

Selecting the employees

Obviously, Qantas employs a lot more than four people. For Naidu, the process involved hours of interviews with staffers, trying to coax out interesting stories to feature.

“We needed people who could sit down and be very easy to talk to,” he said. “You had to dig a little to find those stories.”

A Qantas staffer involved in the brand side sent out an internal email to staff requesting potential protagonists. The customer-facing employees were the first to raise their hands, however Naidu said not many engineers were interested in being involved, and many others were shy.

The final employees who made it into the ad series were:

Rachel Bacon, engineer

George Fountoulakis, baggage handler

Jennifer Catalano, lounge host

Egon Mahr, A330 captain

Development of the campaign

The turnaround since winning the account and launching the campaign was three months. Carr praised the team for working tirelessly for the period; getting all the print and digital work ready.

“It was pretty intense,” remarked Carr, “but relatively stress-free”, to which Naidu, the creative brains behind the campaign and the one on all the shoots, shot Carr a wry look.

When trying to cajole the stories out of the employees, it couldn’t be a point-and-shoot-while-telling-the-story type film. Naidu said the interviews on camera often lasted a lot longer than expected.

But it was made easier, put in Carr, by the fact Qantas knew exactly what it was looking for. It’s a brand that knows what it stands for and what it should sound like, he said.

Despite being a speedy turnaround, Naidu remained smiling. He reminisced about a particularly quirky moment on set when sitting in the car with one of the stars, only to turn around and see a giant zucchini nestled in the back seat.

“It was the weirdest thing,” chuckled Naidu.