An American Airlines Departure for GlobalHue

Top BE 100 ad agency exits one wing of its business

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The nation’s largest multicultural advertising agency has walked away from its longstanding relationship with the world’s largest airline. GlobalHue (No. 1 on the BE advertising agencies list with $550 million in billings) has “resigned” from doing advertising work for American Airlines.

Since 2000, GlobalHue had been handling the marketing that American Airlines directed toward African American consumers in the U.S. GlobalHue released a statement thanking American Airlines “for the opportunity to work with them in targeting African Americans” and wishing them well “as they continue to make a connection with this important customer.” But the company would give no specific details as to why it was terminating this piece of its core business. By order of the company’s CEO, Donald Coleman, “there will be no further comment,” on the transaction, according to a spokesperson for the ad agency.

American Airlines spokeswoman Sonja Whitemon says that the airline, based in Fort Worth, Texas, had a “rolling contract” with GlobalHue that either party could have terminated at any time. She says it was GlobalHue that resigned the account. “It’s not unusual for corporations and their creative agencies to part company after a time,” Whitemon says. “We certainly appreciate the work GlobalHue has done for us all these years.”

GlobalHue kicked off the “Comfort Zone” campaign for American Airlines one year after it started its contract. GlobalHue later launched other marketing initiatives, including the “We Know Why You Fly” brand campaign that became a multimedia platform for American Airlines. The “We Know Why You Fly” campaign “significantly expanded the airline’s brand awareness with African American consumers.”

So will this change of creative house bring a change in the airline’s marketing approach to ethnic markets? “GlobalHue has specifically handled American’s marketing to the African American consumer market,” Whitemon says. “Our marketing to African Americans has actually evolved over the years and will continue to evolve. African American consumers will notice that American is connecting with them even more through new avenues that include the sports and entertainment they enjoy.”

American Airlines has not yet identified a new agency, Whitemon says, but the company hopes to have one on board soon.

GlobalHue still keeps a hefty client list and continues its work for large accounts including Verizon, Chrysler L.L.C., and Chrysler Financial. Giant retailer Wal-Mart hired GlobalHue in 2007, and that business continues. Remaining accounts also include Bermuda Department of Tourism, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Navy, and GlobalHue’s latest win, Abbott Laboratories.

To better target the different segments of African American, Hispanic, Asian American, urban, and youth consumers, GlobalHue restructured itself in 2007 into a several diverse full-service communications agencies under one holding-company umbrella. A $4 million expansion plan in 2007 included the hiring of 100 new employees and the relocation of its New York office from a 12,000-square-foot space to a 40,000-square-foot location. Other offices are in Detroit and Los Angeles, and GlobalHue employs more than 300 employees who handle advertising, media planning and buying, events and promotions,

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