British Airways hires Uncommon Creative Studio


IAG-owned airline moves its advertising and CRM account from WPP after four years, scrapping its integrated model.

Uncommon Creative Studio has won the advertising and CRM account for British Airways after a shoot-out against the incumbent WPP.

Omnicom, Havas and Interpublic were all involved earlier in the process. Publicis Groupe was shortlisted but decided not to pitch.

WPP has worked on the business in its current form – as an integrated creative, media, social and paid-search account – since 2017. The team includes media agency Wavemaker and creative shop Ogilvy.

Tom Stevens, director of brand and customer experience at BA, said: “Uncommon is a highly talented, independent agency that impressed us with a strong differentiated creative proposal. At British Airways we always seek out the very best agencies to work with.

"I’d like to thank WPP for the great partnership over the last few years and we are now looking forward to a bright new chapter.”    

The BA ad review is part of a broader review of parent company International Airlines Group's agency suppliers. IAG kicked WPP out of the pitch but agreed for it to be let back in after WPP chief executive Mark Read intervened.

It is understood that as part of WPP's new solution, Wunderman Thompson was brought in to support Ogilvy on the creative side.

Nils Leonard, Lucy Jameson and Natalie Graeme are all former WPP executives and worked together at Grey before leaving to set up Uncommon Creative Studio. The agency opened its doors in September 2017 after the trio's WPP commitments had expired.

Uncommon's billings climbed 42% year on year to £32m in 2020, according to Nielsen, after the agency picked up clients including Quaker Oats, as well as projects for Beats by Dre, Allbirds and Bumble. Campaign named it Creative Agency of the Year for 2020.

The agency launched a customer experience practice in August led by former Lida chief executive Jonathan Goodman. By coincidence, BA's marketing strategy has traditionally placed a high priority on loyalty and customer communications.

Natalie Graeme, co-founder at Uncommon, said: “British Airways is an iconic global brand – one that represents and champions British originality at its finest. Connecting Britain with the world and the world with Britain has never felt more welcome and more challenging as travel resumes.

"This offers such an exciting opportunity for the studio to help reignite BA’s purpose across every touchpoint of the business from design, brand, comms, and our newly formed CX practice.”

International Airlines Group, BA's owner, kicked off a review of all its agency relationships in January 2021.

It is running separate but parallel contests for its group media account. WPP is out of the running on the media business but a winner is yet to be confirmed between Omnicom and Havas. Vueling and Iberia also plan to appoint a single creative agency.

A spokesperson for WPP was unavailable for comment.

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