News
Marketing can change the world

Ryanair CMO on making aviation history with comparison campaign inspired by Aldi

Ryanair is claiming a first for the airline industry with a price comparison campaign which sees it pit its fares and experience against rivals EasyJet and British Airways in the UK.

Speaking to The Drum, Ryanair’s chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs - a former marketing director at Tesco - said the campaign was inspired by discount grocer Aldi which has run similar tongue-in-cheek style comparison adverts to great effect in a bid to highlight its quality and value proposition.

A comparison ad of this ilk has never materialised within the airline industry, where Jacobs said the creative generally takes the predictable route of a “white Caucasian family on a beach”.

“It’s very samey,” he said. “This is a fare and service comparison ad which is a first for the industry.”

Following approval from Clear Cast, the comparison concept was built on Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data that found Ryanair receives fewer complaints per every million customers that fly compared to EasyJet and British Airways. It also found that on head to head routes Ryanair is 28 per cent cheaper than EasyJet while it also flies to more places.

The Aldi-style ad has enlisted the talents of up and coming comedian Doc Brown who talks through the comparison in the self-reverential style Ryanair has embraced for its refreshed tone of voice.

The competitors featured in the print ads will change depending on the region it runs in, for example in Ireland it pits itself against Aer Lingus.

The airline worked with creative agency Dare, which has so far faultlessly guided Ryanair through the tricky 18-month transition of establishing itself as a customer-centric brand while retaining the cheeky brand-persona that has won over travellers in the past.

"It wanted to be seen as more of a retailer than an airline. Like a retailer it's trying to offer more at great value," explained Brian Cooper, creative partner at Dare. "That's how it's trying to talk and from a stategic creatice point of view that's quite a radical shift. It's a bold marketing move."

Further improvement to digital experience

The comparison ad forms part of a wider wave of activity running across print, radio, social, digital display and outdoor. It encompasses spots fronted by real-life Ryanair passengers which aim to communicate the latest digital improvements, including an overhauled website which will go live in October.

Viewers will be given a glimpse of what to expect, including a raft of new features such as ‘Hold a Fare’ as well as a greater use of content and social media.

Jacobs compared it to that of the Manchester United website, saying it will allow it to have a much more integrated approach to digital communications and experience.

Another ad will also encourage travellers to consider MyRyanair, the ailine’s loyalty programme that launched last year. At the time, Jacobs told The Drum he was keen to use the data it would collect to power a more personalised experience. This has now come into fruition with users set to receive offers and content based on their preferences and past choices as well as save their travel information so that they don’t have to refill forms every time they travel.

The pan-European campaign will see the same version of the ad run in Polish, German, and Portuguese.

“All of these ads feature customers talking to camera about the improvements they're seeing, which is great and low cost but also lends authenticity to the change story,” he said.

Always Getting Better

Ryanair’s 'Always Getting Better’ strategy began in earnest with the appointment of Jacobs as its first ever chief marketing officer two years ago. The main aim was to recalibrate Ryanair in consumers’ minds as a brand that now cared about their experience where in the past notorious chief Michael O’Leary had not made it a priority.

Today, Jacobs said he’s been blown away by how well it’s done in such a short amount of time.

“It will always be judged by the load factors. All airlines are having a much better time at the moment because of low fuel prince. But since 'Always Getting Better' on average there are 14 additional happier customers on every Ryanair flight. That’s the metric we look at.”

As well as carrying happier passengers, Ryanair is also carrying more. It’s gone from 77 million a year before the strategy was implemented to expect over 104 million by the end of this year.

The activity will roll out across Europe from tomorrow (Saturday 12 September).

Jennifer Faull

The Drum senior reporter Jen Faull provides news and insight on the latest developments in retail and FMCG.

All by Jennifer