JetBlue is parting ways with longtime creative agency Mullen Lowe. The decision follows a review dating back to November when the airline, struggling amid new challenges posed by the continuing pandemic, began a search for a potential new partner.
Alex Leikikh, CEO of Mullen Lowe Group, announced the news in a memo to staff on Monday obtained by Ad Age. In the message, he noted that the long-lasting relationship “brought humanity back to air travel, engaged customers and empowered crewmembers.”
“This was no garden variety client-agency relationship,” he wrote, highlighting recognition such as winning a gold Effie award.
MullenLowe referred a request for comment to JetBlue. The airline in a statement to Ad Age indicated that the review was still ongoing, saying, “We are still working through our RFP process.”
“This is the right time for us to take a fresh look at our agency roster,” it said in the statement. “The needs of our customers have been reset by the pandemic, and we have an opportunity to evolve our brand story to reflect what customers expect from a travel provider. Additionally, JetBlue is set up to emerge from the pandemic stronger than we entered it, with a transformed fleet, growing network, a refreshed onboard experience, and flights to London. Our RFP process is helping identify a strategic partner to ensure our marketing and advertising supports our recovery coming out of the crisis, and helps us tell the JetBlue story creatively and efficiently as travel rebounds.”
JetBlue, like most travel brands, curtailed ad spending during the pandemic. The airline has not run a national TV ad since late 2019, according to ad-tracking firm iSpot.tv. At that time, its media buy included one spot called “shake a leg” that plugged leg room. Its total measured media spending in the U.S. fell from $15.3 million in 2019 to $12.4 million last year, according to Kantar.
As vaccines roll out and leisure travel begins to rebound, many travel operators have cited an uptick in booking and search. Yet such interest has yet to be reflected in sales.
For the earnings period ended March 31, JetBlue last week reported a 54% decline in year-over-year operating revenue to $733 million, which is a 61% decline over the same period in 2019. The company spent $23 million on sales and marketing for the quarter, a 57% decline over the year-earlier period.