British Airways Welcomes Expats Home

By Saumya Tewari , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | November 20, 2014
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The airline brand, no stranger to emotion-laden digital films, has launched yet another such. This one hopes to stir expatriates who carry India in their hearts.

British Airways continues to tug at the heart-strings; after ad films like 'A Ticket To Visit Mum' and 'Go Further To Get Closer', the airline brand has released an one called 'The Welcome of Home'. This one's targeted at second-generation Indians, living overseas.

Created by BBH London, the four-minute long film is about Chitra, a lady who is based in Toronto, Canada, and visits India to meet her adoring grandmother. Each time she flies home, she fears it could very well be the last time she sees her grandmother. The film also brings out the emotional conflict many Indian parents feel when their children settle aboard - they miss them bitterly but also want them to fulfill their dreams and enjoy a comfortable life.

Ewan Paterson

Victoria Long

The film is shot in both countries. The India bit brings out the quintessential warm welcome we give our guests. Ewan Paterson, executive creative director at BBH London, tells afaqs! that for a campaign like this, "being real" was crucial.

"Finding Chitra and telling her story gave us powerful and magical content that no scripted film could have," he asserts, adding that the film is all about understanding the emotions that come with flying home to be with one's family, many miles away.

Victoria Long, marketing manager, the Americas, British Airways, says, about the campaign, "British Airways doesn't just fly people; we connect them with the people that matter most. We understand the value and importance of a warm welcome. It's a wonderful part of Indian culture and we strive to give our customers a little taste of that warm welcome of home from the moment they step on board."

Directed by renowned documentary makers Wilkins and Maguire, the film is being promoted on YouTube and British Airways' official website. It is being supported by online advertising, social activity (including a Twitter contest, #WelcomeOfHome) and a special imitative called 'Exec-Club engagement', targeted specifically at second-generation Indians living in North America.

An official statement from British Airways states that the brand team has specifically tailored its service on this route (North America to India), to include Bollywood films in the entertainment package, personalised service from cabin crew members (including them being dressed in traditional Indian clothes), special Hindu and Muslim meals, and extra baggage allowance for those travelling from the USA and Canada to India, to accommodate all the gifts, a typicality we're all too familiar with.

North America is home to nearly three million Indians, most of whom have large extended families back in India. These expats tend to travel to their motherland annually, for family events, festivals and other special occasions.

As per US census reports, there are 40 million foreign-born Americans; this means 14 per cent of the American population is foreign-born. Of these, five per cent are Indian (1.9 million people). In Canada, there are over 1.5 million people who say they are of 'South Asian ethnicity'. This group comprises 4.8 per cent of the population of Canada. Of these, over a million are Indian.


Creative experts chose adjectives like "heartwarming", "emotional" and "insightful" while talking about this campaign. Some feel the film comes across as a touch too "scripted".

Shobhit Mathur

Amod Dani

For Amod Dani, executive creative director, Publicis India, the campaign brings out the "yearning element," that most NRIs can readily relate to. To him, the film is a refreshing change from the "standard" airline commercial out there. He appreciates the absence of mid-air shots of the airplane, beaming air hostess doing Namaste and reclining business-class seats, visuals the category is guilty of abusing.

"Communication has to go deep and understand the human psyche," says Dani, "British Airways has understood the importance of returning home, and has found a real purpose, which transcends tangible 'service benefits'."

The story, he however feels, lacks the element of surprise, something the brand managed to insert in its 'A Ticket to Visit Mum' film. The previous ad, Dani opines, scores over the current one, as far as recall value goes. "There needed to be some sense of drama, twist or surprise. That would have made the film a lot less predictable," he says.

For Shobhit Mathur, executive creative director, Hakuhodo Percept, the campaign is touching but lacks authenticity.

"Some moments and reactions in the film don't come across as 'real' at all. The brand's previous 'Go Further to Get Closer' idea, based around Valentine's Day, was much better," he notes. The 'Go Further... ' idea was especially relatable in India, a country where many marriages are of the 'arranged' kind, he reminds us.

Mathur, nevertheless, applauds British Airways for being concerned about real causes and real people, and appreciates the brand's consistent efforts to connect with its consumers through films of this kind.

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