On this day, amid the fashionable chaos that is home to HHCL &
Partners and birthplace to the Go concept, David Magliano is an
infectious bundle of energy.
’I’m in a good mood today,’ he grins. ’My one-year-old daughter has just
slept through the night for the first time.’ He is full of beans despite
working late the previous night with his boss, chief executive Barbara
Cassani. ’She only stops working when she’s asleep,’ he groans.
Magliano is feeding off the buzz around Go’s new ad campaign, which
broke earlier this month. The dancing graphics and retro music may take
us back to the 1960s in design terms but, as the first TV branding
campaign for a budget airline, it heralds a new maturity in a sector set
’It’s classic HHCL work,’ says Magliano, ’distinctive, mould-breaking
A former Ogilvy & Mather ad man, Magliano was hired by HHCL in the
summer of 1997 to work on BA’s concept for a budget airline, before
being poached by Cassani as her number two at the tender age of 34.
Since Go took off in May 1998, it has quadrupled its destinations to 12.
Its staff numbers have doubled and Magliano predicts that the headcount
of 330 employees will reach 450 by the end of September.
Exciting times, but Magliano is a man under pressure. Like the rest of
Go’s management team, his reputation relies on the airline breaking even
by April 2001, when BA will review the whole initiative in which it is
investing pounds 25m. In May, Go publishes its first year’s results.
Although Magliano won’t reveal the airline’s load factor (how full its
flights are), he insists Go is grabbing a disproportionate share on
those routes it operates.
Magliano believes that Go is putting clear blue sky between its brand
and rivals; principally Ryanair, EasyJet and Debonair.
Some of this he puts down to luck. ’There’s actually very little
marketing opposition at the moment. The other budget carriers suffer
from a lack of long-standing marketing chiefs,’ he says.
His most notable adversary, EasyJet marketing director Tony Anderson,
has been moved to the firm’s cyber cafe spin-off, EasyEverything. It has
yet to replace him.
Magliano also benefits from an unusually clear vision of the brand he
’Our attendants’ uniforms define us. They are professional but modern
and simple. Scheduled airlines tend to revert to 1950s mode. Who wears a
hat these days?’
To an extent, Magliano is moulding the brand in his own image. With many
friends in the design business, he is a self-confessed minimalist, a
claim authenticated by his close cropped hair and sharp sartorial style.
Apparently his North London flat is the sort of white-walled, stripped
floorboard space beloved of design magazines.
Such confidence in this late-90s zeitgeist is also a key tenet of
Magliano’s marketing tactics. The new campaign includes ads in style
mags such as Wallpaper, The Face and Marie Claire, all aimed at a young
But does this wooing of bright young things risk alienating other
potential audiences? ’I don’t think we’ve made it too trendy; 51% of our
customers are under 35 and 45% of them are using a low-cost airline for
the first time. We can change their perceptions of this market.
’The conventional thinking on budget airlines is that we are competing
on price so the brand doesn’t matter, but the people who travel with us
are likely to be cash rich and time poor. I want a brand that fits into
the rest of their shopping portfolio. I’m not saying we want to be The
Ivy or Prada but we can be Pret a Manger or the Gap.’
One senior travel marketer believes Magliano has brought a breath of
fresh air to the airline business. ’Most airline marketers are trained
at one of the big carriers. He is bringing a new take on brand
’My marketing inspiration continues to come from beyond the sector,’
says Magliano. ’Supermarkets are customer-driven and continually
innovate. It’s no coincidence that we have three managers from
This aside, Magliano’s key contribution to the airline is his
He is an intense character who relies on instinct. The flipside, one
suspects, is sometimes an impatience with those who he feels are not
One Go employee says: ’David personally presents what he sees as Go’s
brand values to every new member of staff. His enthusiasm can be very
Magliano believes his biggest strength is spotting an opportunity. So
will he soon get bored? ’It’s anything but dull at the moment,’ he
laughs, ’but as we get bigger I need to employ like-minded people.’
Despite his obvious drive and ambition, Magliano doesn’t want his boss’s
’I’ve no ambition to run an airline and wouldn’t have the experience
anyway. I’m a sales and marketing man at heart.’
That said, Magliano is a key player in one of the few fast-growing
sectors of the UK economy. Eight million people flew on low-cost
European airlines last year and this is set to reach 36 million by
This,combined with speculation that BA will eventually move all its
lower end short-haul operations to Stansted, could create a new raft of
career opportunities. And if Go hits its targets, the sky could be far
from the limit for Magliano.
Account director, Hall Advertising
Business director, Ogilvy & Mather
Partner, HHCL & Partners
Sales and marketing director, Go
This article was first published on Marketing