Air Canada’s revamped Aeroplan takes off

Who: Air Canada, using its in-house agency for strategy, creative and digital media, with some consulting from FCB. Traditional media buy from Mindshare, with Scout’s Honour for production. Directed by Kevin Foley.

What: The official relaunch and advertising campaign for the Aeroplan loyalty program, which Air Canada acquired in 2018.

When & Where: The revamped and rebranded program launches today (Nov. 10). The early media emphasis is on digital, complemented by some airport out-of-home and a TV buy to follow early in the new year. Some of the awareness will come from financial partners TD, Amex and CIBC.

Why: The story of loyalty and Air Canada is a long and winding one, all of it leading to this point, with the airline introducing its own loyalty program. Air Canada says the new program has been designed to be very different to other options.

“The program design team wanted Aeroplan to address the friction points that loyalty programs have created in peoples’ lives,” said Andy Shibata, managing director, brand at Air Canada. “They’ve increasingly become a little harder to use, harder to redeem, longer to redeem, harder to collect.”

With a new positioning of helping its customers travel more and travel better, Air Canada needed a communications plan reflecting that core message, delivered with energy and enthusiasm. “This isn’t the same Aeroplan program, or the same loyalty program that people are growing more and more pessimistic about,” he said.

How: The 60-second launch spot, which is the core of the advertising campaign, is constructed around a fast-paced montage of people using the program—from getting gas to shopping at Starbucks and ordering Uber Eats in Toronto’s Leslieville (represent!!)—and exchanging their points for travel benefits.

“The pace of the ad is really quick, a lot of hard cuts—people earning and redeeming and travelling,” said Shibata. “We wanted to make sure what we were able to communicate was the pace of the program. It’s not about this long, drawn-out, delayed gratification of, ‘Am I ever going to get there? I feel like I’ve been collecting for years and I haven’t been able to redeem on anything.'”

What about the timing? They delayed it a little, but felt comfortable doing it now even if the pandemic seems to be here for a while yet. “If you think about the aspiration of travel, it’s always going to be there,” said Shibata. “People certainly aren’t traveling as much right now, but it’s something they aspire to, and it’s not like that latent demand isn’t going to be there.”

The logo: It features a stylized E with the three arms representing the redesigned program’s three principles. “It’s about recognizing, it’s about rewarding [and] it’s about engaging our customers,” said Shibata. “And those three principles were at the core of every decision that was made.” At the same time, the “E” also represents three masks.

Masks? Not those kinds of masks. When Air Canada introduced its new livery and aircraft colour design in 2017, it included a unique black band around the cockpit windows that is evocative of an eye mask. So the three masks in Aeroplan logo are that kind of mask. “It helps deliver the message that Aeroplan is part of Air Canada,” said Shibata. “We always want to make sure that there are some metaphors or stories behind everything that we do—everything is purposeful, and it’s not frivolous.”

Why in-house instead of previous agency FCB? That’s really about the financial crunch caused by the pandemic, said Shibata. “We wanted to make sure we were judicious with our costs and unfortunately that meant severing some ties with some agencies for the time being. FCB is still a partner with us and they are still doing some retail work with us… [and] they helped inspire the concept prior to the pandemic.”

David Brown