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“To fly. To serve.”

A Time magazine editor once said: “Americans imagine that The Economist is better written, because they impute an English accent to what they read.” To see what a difference an accent can make, fellow Americans, just watch the new British Airways TV spot.

Listen for the accent, and admire the retro recreations of classic air travel. Aviation buffs will find all kinds of fun, vintage equipment and history in this visually dense commercial by BBH London:

This 90-second commercial, called “Aviators,” is the first phase of the worldwide rollout of a new ad campaign, reported to cost £20 million. The campaign replaces British Airways’ old slogan, “The world’s favorite airline,” with it longtime motto, “To fly. To serve.”

(What’s the difference between a slogan and a motto? A slogan is a memorable copyline used in advertising. A motto is a short line that encapsulates the company’s mission. Slogans can be short-lived or vary from campaign to campaign; a motto is meant to last.)

I don’t know how this well this ad plays back in the U.K., where British Airways is a commonplace airline known for crowded airport terminals and labor issues. Here in the states (where this commercial is running on national TV), we know British Airways mostly for its well-appointed transatlantic flights with free wine. And, of course, flight attendants with British accents.

If this commercial feels dashing and sophisticated to Americans, I think the British accent deserves most of the credit. Imagine this commercial redubbed with an American voiceover, like something from a Chevy commercial. It wouldn’t feel nearly as powerful.

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This is the best airline commercial I’ve seen all year. A recent Virgin Atlantic ad by Adam & Eve had a similar vibe, but tried to be campier and sexier and somehow ended up feeling slightly unsettling. There’s also a beautiful and simple United ad that’s been airing on TV recently that shows a time-lapse video of a jet being repainted with that airline’s new livery… I wish I could share it here, but I can’t find it online. (Help anybody?)

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Also: Curious how they created all that vintage aircraft footage? Watch the making-of video:

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Related: “Those first young men?” Ha! Check out this gallery of women aviation pioneers on the New York Times Lens Blog.

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Who created this ad?

BBH London
Creative Team: Justin Moore, Hamish Pinnell
Creative Director: Nick Gill
Director: Frederic Planchon
Producer: Simon Cooper
More credits via Creativity.

Who signed off on it?

BA chief executive Keith Williams

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising


  1. Heather says:

    This is fantastic! Thanks for posting 🙂 Even with the long lines, I’ve always felt a bit special and part of something bigger when I fly BA.

  2. smish smash says:

    I have to say, as a fan of the early ladies of flight, particularly Beryl Markham, I was really, really annoyed when I first saw this commercial with the “those first young men” comment. It’s so unnecessary too; they could have said “Those first young pilots” and no one would have even noticed.

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