British Airways’ plane detecting billboards showcase the magic of flying #lookup

Once in a while, there comes a marketing campaign that takes your breath away. You wonder, “how did they do it?” This is one of them.

British Airways has put up a  billboards in Piccadilly Circus and Chiswick in London that respond to their planes flying overhead. When the billboard “detects” a BA flight flying below the clouds, visible to passers by, a child starts running, pointing up to the sky – chasing the airplane. The billboard then updates to reflect the flight details, like “BA flight 475 from Barcelona”, along with a URL Onlookers can then go online and view destination details and ultimately make a booking.

British Airways has worked with the agency Ogilvy 112th Floor to custom-fit the billboards with surveillance that detects only when their flights pass overhead, and activates the billboard. Watch the billboard in action in the video below:

Abigail Comber, British Airways’ head of marketing, said: “This is a first, not just for British Airways but for UK advertising. We all know from conversations with friends and family that we wonder where the planes are going and dream of an amazing holiday or warm destination. The clever technology allows this advert to engage people there and then and answer that question for them.“We hope it will create a real ‘wow’ and people will be reminded how amazing flying is and how accessible the world can be.”

Well, it’s a great story, and it surely reminds me of my childhood, when I’d point up and run after an airplane. And brings out my inner #avgeek, when I still look up, and try to identify the airline and flight details.

While British Airways still needs to work on their social media strategy, they certainly have nailed their last few traditional marketing campaigns – first with Visit Mum, and now this #lookup campaign, to bring back the magic of flying. The latest campaign certainly seems to have caught the attention of Twittersphere.


Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam is a globally sought-after consultant, speaker and thought leader on airline branding and customer engagement strategy. He is the Founder and CEO of SimpliFlying, one of the world’s largest aviation marketing firms working with over 85 aviation clients in the last ten years. Nigam is also the youngest winner of the Global Brand Leadership Award and has addressed senior executives globally, from Chile to China. Nigam’s impassioned and honest perspectives on airline marketing have found their way to over 100 leading media outlets, including the BBC, CNBC, Reuters and Bloomberg, and into leading publications such as The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. He writes a dedicated monthly column in Flight’s Airline Business, challenging the typical assumptions about airline marketing. His new book on airline marketing, SOAR, is an Amazon bestseller that’s shaking up the industry and inspiring other industries to learn from the best airlines. Born in India, raised in Singapore, he now lives with his wife and two young daughters in Toronto.
Shashank Nigam
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