WestJet announces TBWA as agency of record

August 22, 2011  |  Kristin Laird  |  Comments

After a five-month agency search, WestJet has landed on TBWA\Canada as its creative agency of record, ending a six-year relationship with Taxi Canada.

The Calgary-based discount airliner issued a request for information in February. The account had been with Taxi since 2005, and was one of the agency’s first large-scale national clients. Rumours started circulating in June that TBWA had won the account.

Jay Bertram, president of TBWA\Canada and Latin America told Marketing that the agency was notified of the win in early July. The agency will handle all creative responsibilities for WestJet and its WestJet Vacations division out of the Toronto office.

While most people gripe about the procurement process, this review was handled extremely well, said Bertram.

“We knew through this process they made every agency go through what we were getting into, and we also knew whether we would enjoy working with them and them with us,” he said.

“We believe we break the conventional airline mold,” said Lauri Feser, WestJet vice president, marketing, in a release. “And TBWA’s DNA is all about disrupting conventions and enabling growth through creativity.”

A new agency could mean a new creative direction. In 2005, Taxi introduced the “Owners” advertising platform, which became the external face of the brand but also reflected the company’s strong internal culture..

WestJet updated the campaign in May in the midst of the RFP.  At the time , Feser told Marketing that focusing on different value propositions and products with each campaign has helped keep the “Owners” platform fresh over the years.

While Bertram couldn’t comment on any future creative or strategic plans, he did say that the employees are a “critical part” of the message, and one the agency needs to be aware of when figuring out “how to merchandise and communicate” the WestJet brand.

Bertram also said the agency will work closely with WestJet’s media agency or record, Media Experts.

According to Nielsen, WestJet spent about $19.2 million on advertising in 2010.

Taxi defended the account, for which it opened an office in Calgary. That office is slated to stay open to continue work on other clients, including ConocoPhillips, Tourism Jasper and the University of Calgary.

Taxi Calgary will shrink, however. Agency president Jeremy Gayton said the network is moving some of the approximately 15 staffers to other offices. He could not comment how big the Calgary office will be post-shuffle.

“We’re extremely proud of the all the work we did,” Gayton said. “You can track their growth with the partnership we had with them. The owners campaign did a great job of crystalizing their position, not just internally but externally.”

WestJet has been flying high this year. The Calgary-based discount airline carrier added five aircraft to its fleet and recently increased its number of flights in the crucial “Eastern Triangle” of Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. Over 51,000 people flew on WestJet going into the Easter weekend, which is a new single-day record for the airline. (The previous record of 50,336 passengers was set last Christmas).

With files from Jeromy Lloyd

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