To raise awareness about new routes and the frequency of its flights, British Airways created a digital video billboard that literally pointed out planes flying overhead. It was a simple, “magical” idea, but it required coordinated and precise execution and a lot of behind-the-scenes technical wizardry.
“Using an ADS-B antenna, we read every aircraft’s transponder data within 200 kilometers (124 miles),” explained Poppy Nagra, group communications director, Ogilvy & Mather UK, which created the campaign. “The ads not only displayed the flight number, but also where the plane was flying from. Dynamic retail messaging was matched to each route.”
The technology also calculated whether people on the ground would be able to see the planes, based on cloud altitude data. If there was too much cloud cover, the sign wouldn’t run. If the airplane was visible, the data triggered the video billboard, switching from the message in progress to one that featured curious toddlers pointing skyward at the passing plane while the precise flight number and city of origin appeared in a message, “Look it’s Flight (#) from (city).”
The two London billboards, one at Piccadilly Circus and the other in Chiswick, also referred people to a custom British Airways’ “Look Up” microsite and encouraged the use of the hashtag #LookUp on Twitter. Within three weeks, the campaign drove 1 million YouTube views and 17,000 Twitter mentions. It garnered 45 million earned media impressions and was a much-lauded campaign at ad award shows.
As Emma Delafosse, OgilvyOne chief creative officer for EAME, said to D&AD (formerly British Design & Art Direction) after winning the organization’s prestigious Golden Pencil award, “The key to this campaign’s success was the human truth at its heart. It’s a campaign which proves that technology works best where it is used hand in glove with people’s emotions, desires and needs.”