The decision to move the account to BBH ends BA's 23-year history with M&C Saatchi. The account represented approximately 7% of M&C Saatchi's revenues in 2004 and the loss will hit the agency hard.
BA was M&C Saatchi's founding client 10 years ago, although their relationship stretches back 23 years -- Saatchi brothers Charles and Maurice created the "World's favourite airline" tagline for the carrier in 1982.
The BBH contract will begin from November 15, when M&C Saatchi's contract will end.
Martin George, BA's commercial director, said BBH was chosen for its "outstanding insight, creative ability and proven track record of delivering effective advertising", which he said was demonstrated throughout the pitch process.
"BBH joins us at an exciting time as we embark upon a period of major product and service investment. Its reputation for creativity and strategic thinking will greatly help British Airways maintain our position as a leader in innovative global marketing and advertising," George added.
Of BA's long relationship with M&C Saatchi, George said that the agency had produced a number of memorable campaigns, but that it was now time to move on.
"We must look to the future now and adapt to the changing environment in which we operate and the needs of our business," he said.
The pitch, understood to be price-led, was instigated by the arrival of Willie Walsh as BA's chief executive -- he has since embarked on a cost-cutting drive. Along with George, head of marketing communications Jill McDonald and head of UK and Ireland marketing Jayne O'Brien were overseeing the pitch.
M&C Saatchi said the loss has already been partially offset by recent new-business wins such as Tourism Australia, Ribena and Weetabix, but 2005 profits will be hit.
David Kershaw, chief executive of M&C Saatchi, said: "We are very sad that such a long and successful partnership has come to an end. It is 10 years since M&C Saatchi started working with BA, and 23 years since the M&C Saatchi partners first worked with it. In that time, we have helped to grow and develop its business to become one of the world's most successful airlines."
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