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Allegiant Strangely Rolls Out a Nationwide Ad Campaign

When you think of Allegiant, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Ultra low costs? A fee for everything? Nationwide advertising powerhouse? Wait, that third one… maybe not. But it’s actually happening. Allegiant has decided to roll out a nationwide ad campaign, and I’m sort of confused as to why.

Allegiant’s first national spot is up on YouTube and it’s part of the “Here’s the Deal” campaign.

The message is certainly consistent with what you’d expect from Allegiant. There is no such thing a free soda – it’s baked into the ticket price. So fly Allegiant, where you only pay for what you want. It’s the same message we hear from Spirit, but I can’t see Spirit spending money on a national campaign. Wouldn’t it make more sense for Allegiant to just put this out there and try to get some viral love instead of spending a lot of dough?

Historically, Allegiant has done TV ads but in a very different way. As we all know, Allegiant’s strategy has generally been to fly from small town USA to big city destination. The strategy started with a Vegas base, but now you see it in Phoenix, Florida, and even Hawai’i. Small cities around the US were thrilled to get nonstop service to a big destination, and it made advertising easy.

Allegiant could just focus on route advertising in that city. So when Casper, Wyoming got a flight to Vegas, Allegiant could blast the local market through cable and let everyone know about the flight and how cheap it was. It was a good strategy.

But now Allegiant thinks it’s getting too big for that kind of thing. It’s not only changing the way it advertises, but it’s changing the content of the ads themselves. This is Allegiant’s first real attempt at a branding campaign. It doesn’t talk about routes or fares, but instead it talks about the business model and why you should like it… you’ll get cheap fares.

The airline’s most recent expansion has added some fairly big city markets to its usual roster of small towns. Concord, NC is just outside Charlotte. Portsmouth, NH isn’t far from Boston. And both Stewart and Islip are on the outskirts of New York City. In order to reach all these people, Allegiant spokesperson Jessica Wheeler says that they decided to use a “more efficient” ad buy.

To be clear, Allegiant is not turning into Southwest. You aren’t going to see brand ads plastered all over major sporting events on network TV. But you will be able to see these ads no matter where you live in the US, if you’re looking for them.

Jessica gave me a sampling of the channels which will play the ads. See if you can pick out a theme: HGTV, Travel Channel, ABC Family, DIY, Destination America, and Lifetime Movie Network are a few. As Jessica put it, Allegiant is able to reach more of the airline’s target audience at the same frequency by doing a national ad buy. And clearly that audience is moms. It makes sense, since moms are often the ones controlling the finances and making travel plans for the family. But do you really need a national campaign to reach them?

Allegiant thinks so, but I’m not convinced that’s the case. The press release is full of grandiose statements. For example.

The company is the largest domestic low-cost carrier, serving as the hometown airline of more than 90 communities, including recently announced service in the New York City and Boston areas.

That may be true, but most of these cities see a flight just a couple times a week. So while the footprint is broad, there just aren’t that many seats to sell in each city. It seems to me that those cities that aren’t filling their flights could benefit from local ads, but why bother blasting those out elsewhere? Maybe Allegiant is right that with some pretty big cities, it makes sense to do this kind of thing. We’ll find out soon enough.

The ads will only run for 4 weeks, and then I assume they’ll pay close attention to see whether they got the lift they were hoping for. So if we see the strategy continue afterwards, that means it worked.

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