British Airways Holidays & Metro: Curing the January Blues

2014 | UK

Everybody feels rubbish in January. It’s cold, wet and miserable and we’re all on a post-Christmas slump. With BA, the Metro and comedian Joe Wilkinson, we set out to cheer everyone up with some real blue-sky thinking.

It’s no coincidence that January is a crucial time of year for holiday brands. With gloomy Brits dreaming of sunnier climes and planning their holiday for the year ahead, this is the time to shine.

This means every travel brand out there goes to town, throwing their weight behind big-budget campaigns to promote post-Christmas sales in a cluttered market.

We needed to find a quirky, humorous way of engaging with consumers and easing their pain with a trouble-free holiday booking.

& 11% Awareness of the statement ‘BA provide hotels’ increased YoY by 11% Milward Brown research showed significant increase on KPIs around holiday awareness statements.


BA Holidays faced two challenges in January 2014. Firstly, as a new entry to the full-service holiday market, it had lower levels of brand awareness than many of its competitors. Secondly, it had a limited budget with which to drive awareness and consideration.

Carat knew there was no way BA Holidays could compete head-to-head with rival brands through traditional channels. Something completely different and offbeat was required. It was time for some very literal ‘blue sky thinking’.


The first week back to work after the Christmas break is the prime time for targeting office workers suffering from the back to work blues who are planning their next escape.

If we could reach this audience and engage with them in a way that broke the depression, we could inspire them to consider a holiday with BA.

Our first step was to counteract the lack of awareness around BA Holidays by teaming up with a media partner that could offer us serious impact with these melancholy commuters.

Delving into CCS, our proprietary research tool, we found that a large proportion of holiday makers find booking holidays quite stressful. So we decided to show them how to de-stress the experience by presenting it, from start to finish, in a humorous and relatable way.

We would activate a 100% user-generated, completely live campaign, led by a quirky comedian that would transform the way users looked at planning and buying their holidays.


The Metro was the perfect media partner; allowing us to capture this downbeat audience on their morning commute.

Then we needed a campaign focus – somebody offbeat, humorous and beloved of our weary commuters.

We found our perfect frontman - comedian Joe Wilkinson, a regular panel show guest, who captures the essence of uniquely British humour.

So, on a bleak and dreary January morning we announced through Metro that BA Holidays would give readers 100% control of Joe’s life the following week. Readers could dictate online where he would go. Whichever destination came out top, Joe would be sent there the next day. We offered all participants the chance to win a BA holiday.

This was the first time the Metro had run a 100% live campaign and the first time BA had considered any sort of user-generated campaign. The quirky tone was also a new move for BA.

We delivered a fully integrated multimedia campaign, with a Lifestyle cover wrap, teasers, advertorials, an online competition page and live blog, digital display and social media.

Joe’s antics highlighted BA Holidays’ products and how they could help along the booking journey. The final Friday execution consisted of a double page spread wrapping up Joe’s quirky trip to New York.


& 11% Awareness of the statement ‘BA provide hotels’ increased YoY by 11% Milward Brown research showed significant increase on KPIs around holiday awareness statements.
w 6% Consideration rose by around 6%
) 1M The activity reached more than 1 million people on Twitter

Our goal was to communicate the end to end service offered by BA Holidays in an innovative and engaging way. The campaign we ran in Metro worked beautifully by enabling us to create content that compelled readers to engage, and ultimately contribute to and affect the content by voting and tweeting. The high levels of interactions across the campaign were testament to the strength and creativity of the concept. As this highly successful campaign showed, the best partnerships are based on a mutual desire to benefit from great content, and newsbrands are perfectly placed to deliver this.

Matt Armstrong Head of Marketing & Distribution, BA Holidays
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