ATLANTA -- A year ago, Delta Air Lines dumped its longtime advertising agency and rolled out a New Age campaign, which the carrier's executives said brought positive results.
But now they plan to put a little more reality into the ethereal TV ads that use floating balloons and one-word notes such as "fun," and "success" to signify a "million different reasons to fly" for passengers.
Independent surveys show positive response to the brand-building ads, whose message is that Delta is a global carrier and treats customers as individuals, said Gayle Bock, vice president-consumer marketing at the Atlanta-based airline.
"Our research shows people understand what they're supposed to take away from them," said Bock. "Of course, research is for learning, and what we're also learning is that there is some gap between expectation and experience.
"This fall, we'll be coming out with a campaign that will give more tangible benefits" of flying Delta, Bock said.
The airline's new agency, Saatchi & Saatchi of New York, is revising the current TV ads slightly to add a broader mix of employees rather than just flight attendants.
The first Delta ads by Saatchi, which debuted a year ago, pitched improved business-class service, along with the new slogan "On Top of the World." They were followed by the balloon spots, which have puzzled some fliers.
Delta needed a fresh advertising approach, said William Mills III, who runs an Atlanta marketing consultancy, but he isn't sure what to make of the latest ads.
"They have this feel-good theme, but if you've just been on a sold-out flight that's late, its incongruent," he said.
More impressed is Jill Monaghan of the executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates.
"I would say overall the effect is positive," she said. "The ads seem to be more in tune with the corporate traveler and convey an effort to be more consumer friendly." The balloons symbolize "a chance to elevate yourself, have a successful meeting."
Bock would not reveal the changes in store this fall but said the next round of ads still will be backed by the New Age strains of "Adiemus," a chant-like song Delta first used in European advertising several years ago. It was such a hit there that the airline had Saatchi incorporate it in the domestic campaign.
"Adiemus" earned a Gold Clio advertising award for original music this month.
Delta's current ad campaigns are a far cry from the straightforward themes and simple melodies of the "Ready When You Are" and "We Love to Fly and It Shows" spots of years past. Those were done by Atlanta agency BBDO South, which had Delta's account for 51 years.
The airline put the account up for review following the "Delta Marathon" campaign that was panned during the 1996 Summer Olympics.
BBDO was forced to lay off 25 workers, or 12 percent of its staff, after losing Delta. Allen Ginsberg, executive vice president-media, said the agency now has a new chief executive and has recently gotten some new accounts and added jobs.
Asked by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for an assessment of Saatchi's work, he was diplomatic.
"Delta has gone into kind of a futuristic look, and I'm not really sure what the response to that would be," Ginsberg said.