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easyJet: 2014 IPA Effectiveness Awards Shortlist Interview

easyJet took its brand upmarket and delivered a ROMI of 17:1 with its pan-european campaign, ‘Generation easyJet’.


Q1. When and why did you decide to launch a campaign?

IC: “Part of our challenge was to make easyJet a brand that was less reliant on having the lowest price to attract customers. Operational improvements to make easyJet a more customer-centric brand were already starting to be noticed and valued by existing customers.

“We wanted to create a brand campaign that could reflect the transformation that was already taking place, easyJet’s scale of ambition in terms of the types of customers we wanted to attract, and the enjoyable, easy travel experience we were delivering for millions of customers across Europe.”

ML: “The decision to launch easyJet’s first brand campaign was taken by Peter Duffy, the then new Marketing Director in 2010.

“A new management team, headed up by CEO Carolyn McCall, recognised that a brand campaign would play a critical role in attracting new, more valuable customers who had previously been put off by the low cost airline category’s reputation for poor customer experience.”

Q2. How did you feel about the original brief?

ML: “It was, without doubt, one of the most exciting briefs both for VCCP and OMD. A big, ambitious transformation brief backed by an exciting, entrepreneurial new management team at easyJet.

“One of our agency mottoes is ‘It only works if it all works’, and it was clear that a similar ethos existed within easyJet, where its approach to marketing was deeply integrated into its overall business model and practices."

IC: “It was a tricky brief. We’re very proud of our low cost heritage, and our bright and sunny ‘orange-ness’. The challenge was to find a creative brand idea that could leverage all that valuable equity whilst moving the brand image forward quite radically.”

Q3. How hard was it to get the campaign signed off?

ML: “The firm conviction of Peter Duffy and the rest of the management team ensured that what was, in many respects, a radical shift of strategy, was never questioned.

“One of the reasons such early confidence existed is because the creative idea successfully combined the best of easyJet’s past and presented a confident, fresh and more premium brand world.

“Our biggest test was to prove quickly that this new strategy could still deliver as much, if not more, in terms of its sales impact than the previous direct response-dominated activity.”

IC: “The internal challenge was less about getting the creative idea green lit, than identifying cost savings in our marketing budget to fund the new brand campaign.

“We’ve always been a very lean, efficiency-driven company, so finding those cost-saving opportunities required no small amount of ingenuity and a certain level of risk. That’s why it’s such a crucial part of our IPA Effectiveness Awards case story.”

Q4. When and how did you first know that you had been successful?

ML: “Within 12 months there were indicators which suggested that the new campaign was working, ranging from brand tracking results to improving revenue per seat and favourable stock market sentiment.” 

IC: “We could see from our site analytics (specifically put in to give us a more holistic view than just ad server data) that, although we were spending much less on DR activity, our new advertising approach was delivering more people to the shop, who had greater propensity to buy than before.

“This was the critical test of the shift in strategy and it inspired confidence that we were doing the right thing.”

Q5. What was the biggest challenge in demonstrating the effectiveness of your work?

ML: “We’re quite fortunate in that respect since easyJet commissions ongoing econometric analysis of its marketing investment.

“In addition to analysing a range of pre/post tracking measures to see what impact individual campaigns were having on brand perceptions and in relation to our competitors, we also used both soft and hard tracking measures to prove that the campaign was generating tangible effectiveness improvements.”

IC: “We do ongoing econometric analysis of our marketing activity to quantify the value of marketing’s contribution to incremental revenue so that’s something that is built into our marketing practices.

“We also have a wealth of customer data which enables us to see how the profile and value of customers is changing over time. It was clear that new, affluent leisure travellers and an increasing proportion of business travellers were coming to easyJet.”

Q6. How did this campaign compare to previous campaigns by the brand and competitors?

ML: “This was clearly and deliberately a very significant move away from the types of marketing activity that Ryanair continued to put out. There was also a conscious decision to emulate the more premium look and feel associated with flag carriers like BA and Lufthansa. However, the one thing that we were very keen to retain was our tone of voice, which was light-hearted, friendly, very down to earth and, quite often, cheeky.”

IC: “The tone and look and feel of our new campaign were definitely things we managed very carefully. Whilst we were going more ‘premium’, we wanted to retain enough cheekiness that you couldn’t ever see BA doing an ad like ours.

“Another conscious change was to project easyJet as a modern pan-European brand - with a British spirit, perhaps - but a very open, Euro-centric perspective. We wanted to ensure that from an efficiency point of view, we were creating a campaign that could work as well in Israel or Croatia as the UK.”

Q7. What lessons did this campaign teach you?

ML: “It’s taught me how a campaign idea that can extend into multiple channels, paid and owned, can have the most extraordinary impact on the customer experience itself.

“easyJet is also an exceptionally open-minded company - very happy to try new things, take risks, make bold and quick decisions and have outrageous ambitions. It’s been a privilege to work with a company of this quality and learn so much.”

IC: “It taught me how important it is to have genuine product and service improvements for the customer to go with the marketing, and how empty most ad campaigns are when you actually experience the thing they’re selling, particularly when the ad campaign is telling a story of change.

“We communicated genuine operational, product and cultural transformation and so customers’ experience of us matched the new brand work. It also reinforced my view that marketing can inspire the product. In our case, the mobile app was born out of the Marketing Department but has delivered a massive customer service uplift. Now we’re using the app as part of our marketing campaign – a nice full circle.”

Q8. What were the low points/high points of this campaign?

ML: “I genuinely can’t think of any real low points. At times, it’s been a bit ‘squeaky bum’ time in getting work out to very, very tight deadlines. The complexity of creating work that has to be delivered for multiple pan-European markets can be a bit of a logistical conundrum.

“High points are definitely getting recognition from many different sources about the contribution of the campaign to the stunning commercial success that easyJet has enjoyed over the past three years. However, much as I would love to claim it was all down to the campaign, the brilliance of easyJet’s management team is the fundamental reason for its stellar business performance.”

IC: “The big challenge is in getting a campaign that works hard in very different countries, without dumbing down.

“The Italian and UK advertising scenes, for example, are very different with lots of cultural references that don’t cross borders. The most complex time in any campaign for me is the building of consensus around an idea with my European team.

“Having said that, the most rewarding thing is when you see the results from both econometrics and brand tracking which show the ad is working hard across the network. I also like hearing and seeing diverse communities within the business adopt the language of Generation easyJet. You know you have a good idea when the CEO uses the phrase in media interviews.”

Q9. What would you do differently if you did this campaign over again?

ML: “That’s a tough one. I wish I’d bought shares in easyJet back in 2010.”

IC: “I think we focused so much on getting the core advertising assets right (the TV and print executions, for example) that we just couldn’t spend enough time thinking about the wider comms plan. We’ll address this next time round, so that we have much more integration with PR, our airports, our people, social media etc.”

Q10. If you could have worked on one, other IPA award-winning campaign over the years which would it be, and why?

ML: “There’s a Grand Prix-worthy paper that probably won’t ever be written due to the commercial sensitivity around the data (I’m being deliberately vague). My big concern is that it’s getting harder and harder to persuade clients to let us publish data that would have been a standard feature of most IPA papers 10 years ago.”  

IC: “The recovery of McDonald’s from a brand in real trouble back in the mid 2000s to the stunning success — (see “Getting Britain loving it again”, Gold 2012) — it is now is another testament to the power of marketing, product and operational transformation rooted in customer insight. It is a business-school case study which I was lucky enough to see from close range as its media agency account director.” 

Last updated 10/09/2014

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