Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cheeky AirAsia Ads

AirAsia’s Tony Fernandes loves the limelight. And if he doesn’t make the news, he’s sure to embark on something to capture media attention. He’s got an ego the size of an overripe pumpkin and he’s cocky. Anyway, this is a personal opinion.

It seems that in a recent Bangkok Post article, Fernandes had expressed his disdain over Westerners running any successful Asia-based business. “We’re Asians, not a bunch of white guys running the airlines,” Fernandes was quoted as saying (Star, October 20, 2010, p N25). It was an uncalled for remark and it is unbecoming of someone of his stature to spew a racial slur. It was pure juvenile. But I believe it was a deliberate remark designed to evoke verbal retaliation. And it did.

Singapore rival Tiger Airways, headed by British Tony Davis, was quick to express his disappointment over the Fernandes remark – who can blame him? If I would describe Fernandes as a chocolate-colored guy, he might feel the same. Or maybe not since he is so standoffish, so thick-skinned, so unfeeling. And Fernandes responded point-blank that he stood by his statement and that he “was just talking about the Westerners in Tiger Airways’ management who do not know Asia very well” (Star, October 17, 2010). Ouch! Sharp-tongued Fernandes is turning his acerbic wit on Davis again.

Besides, Fernandes is not one to shy away from confrontation and so, it wasn’t surprising when on Tuesday, AirAsia came out with a full-page ad that appeared in Singapore’s The Straits Times depicting a cartoon caricature of a tiger cub in tears and the headlining copy: “If tigers were meant to fly, they would be born with wings”. This was followed by another line “Guaranteed to fly everyday!” – this is obviously seen as a direct reference to an embarrassing episode where Tiger Airways had suffered the ignominy of 40 flight cancellations over a four-day period, leaving thousands stranded, according to Singapore’s The Straits Times (October 02, 2010).

In fact, when the flights were aborted, AirAsia quickly took out ads proclaiming “We have the stripes to fly” and again the “Guaranteed to fly everyday!” tagline – targeting at who else but Tiger Airways!

In a plainspoken interview with Channel NewsAsia (Webpage, posted October 20, 2010), AirAsia's regional head of commercial Kathleen Tan made a big deal about their ads: "We thought it's a great time to do things that are a little bit fun; a little bit wicked. It's not meant as a one-up, we're not attacking anyone, we were just being clever and witty to assert our marketing leadership". Ah-huh, as if AirAsia doesn’t suffer from delays and cancellations!

Bold and brash AirAsia has been poking cheeky fun at rivals.

Highlighting the female cabin crew on its Singapore-Kuala Lumpur route, ads read “There’s a new girl in town and she’s twice the fun at half the price”, which was seen as a dig at Singapore Airlines icon the 'Singapore Girl'.

Air Asia also pushed boundaries with outdoor ads promoting destinations in Thailand with the tagline, “Cheap enough to say Phuket I’ll go”.

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