Air Arabia ditches cartoon ads

Low cost carrier Air Arabia has ditched its South Park-style cartoon characters and launched a new advertising campaign, the third major marketing push in 18 months.

The budget airline has dropped the controversial characters created by Dubai-based advertising agency Face to Face and has opted instead for ads that focus more directly on the destinations it flies to.

The new campaign comes four months after head of marketing, Duncan Osborne, suddenly quit Air Arabia to return to the UK and just 12 months after a previous 'fly and win' campaign was branded a "total disaster" by finance director Don Hubbard.

Hubbard said that the 'fly and win' campaign had placed too much emphasis on prizes rather than the prices that were available to passengers.

He also said that the cash prizes were not big enough to attract enough interest in the promotion.

The new marketing campaign, which is running in the UAE, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia, has been created by Sharjah-based full-service agency Red Marketing and Communications.

The airline has hired Bates PanGulf in Dubai to handle its public relations and says that it is stepping up its marketing efforts in India, Egypt, Turkey and Syria.

Kyle Haywood, commercial director of Air Arabia, told Campaign that the airline's marketing message was still price-led and that the only difference was the tactical execution.

He said: "The previous character campaign was originally implemented as a tactical price campaign, which would run the course of the seasonal schedules.

"The character campaign has reached its shelf life, and it was timely to implement a new creative with this seasons low-fare offers."

Haywood said that low prices would continue to remain as the airline's core message, but that it was being supported by a "destination association" aspect, which profiles Air Arabia's 27 destinations. "The creative allows flexibility to communicate a unique feature - sometimes not the obvious ones - in each destination," Haywood said.

"For example, Jaipur is known for its precious stones, and Rajasthan is the leader in cutting and polishing of semi-precious stones. So why not save on your airfare to Jaipur with Air Arabia, and spend your hard earned cash on a shopping spree for a 36 carat topaz?"

Air Arabia's 'Smart Traveller' characters sparked controversy when they were launched last year due to their striking resemblance to the hit TV show South Park. At the time the airline said that the similarity was a "pure accident".

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