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Zoe Lazarus
Gunther Schumacher

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Trendsetters: OgilvyOne’s Gunther Schumacher Outlines Advertising’s New Currency, and Tells How British Airways Masters It.

Gunther Schumacher, Worldwide President and Chief Operating Officer of customer engagement agency OgilvyOne, is an industry veteran, an internationalist, and a New Yorker whose origins are in Germany. Speaking late last year in a keynote address at the Yomiuri Shimbun’s Annual Luncheon in New York, he shared a deceptively simple vision for today’s complex advertising world: create value through engaging stories.

Schumacher’s focused advertising mission may be best achieved through the sophisticated integration of strategy, data, technology and quality creative; however, he believes that creating personal experiences can unlock extraordinary brand value.

In an era known for putting the consumer first, he asked his audience: "What's your consumer worth? In an age of advocacy, will that consumer recommend your brand? Are you giving your consumer anything in return? A 10% off deal is not differentiating. Today's currency is a value exchange--value for value, often that value is created through engaging stories and magnetic content."

Schumacher outlined an extraordinary Ogilvy project for British Airways that illustrates his concept well. Called "Visit Mum," the initiative is focused on the 4-million+ Indian ex-pat community in the US that generally returns to India at least once a year. These fliers certainly represent a market opportunity for BA; however, they now have many airline choices, including discount carriers, when flying to Delhi or Mumbai. How could British Airways think differently about attracting these consumers without slashing fares in an effort to be immediately competitive while aiming to build long-term preference?

According to Gunther Schumacher, “It’s never been about flying.” Rather, it’s been about visiting Mum and coming home. Or “real people and real stories” contribute to making a difference for a brand.

While current airline advertising largely focuses on the luxuries of business and first class travel, British Airways’ “Visit Mum” campaign makes a personal connection between an immigrant son and a longing mother back home. In a 5-minute BA video, a mother in Mumbai reveals how much she misses her son in New York, who hasn’t been back home in 15 years. She cooks his favorite meal of spiced okra in the belief that BA will fly it to New York for him. Instead, she’s surprised when BA flies her son back home to Mumbai.

The video also promotes British Airways’ North America routes to India: “There’s never been a better time to make your Mum’s year in just the moment she gets to see your face again. And with more flights to India from more North American cities than anyone, we make it easy to give the gift of yourself.”

Click here to see the video:

(Of course, the BA website also features the okra recipe at the heart of a mother and son’s memory.)

Gunther Schumacher’s favorite David Ogilvy quote is, “You cannot bore people into buying your product; you can only interest them into buying it.” There’s no question that British Airways connected emotionally with customers worldwide—whether or not of Indian derivation.

This touching campaign is certainly an example of creating engaging stories, and creating value for value.