Local advertising agency wins US Airways account

Eisner expects to get $20 million a year from ailing airline

January 03, 2002|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

Eisner Communications has won the domestic advertising account for US Airways Group Inc., the agency said yesterday.

The new business is estimated to be worth $20 million in annual billings.

"It's been said in our industry that you know you've arrived when you win yourself an airline or a car account," said Steven C. Eisner, president and chief executive of Eisner Communications. "Clearly it's a milestone account. This kind of thing doesn't land out of thin air."

The Baltimore firm was awarded the business after a review of several agencies, including the incumbent, McCann-Erickson New York. US Airways will be Eisner Communications' largest client, Eisner said.

"That is a big account," said John Wolfe, senior vice president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, an industry trade association.

"There are a handful of account categories that could put an agency on a different level. These include automotive, fast food, soft drink, and certainly an airline account should be included on that list. It's considered a prestige piece of business," Wolfe said.

An account with that kind of panache has the potential to catapult Eisner's growth, he said.

"A high-profile account like this, if you do good work, can put you on the right people's radar and definitely can lead to bigger and better accounts," Wolfe said.

But Eisner's landing the advertising account for the nation's sixth-largest airline comes at a challenging time.

"Clearly, the industry has taken a beating," Eisner said.

"I think the nation has a far better sense that security has been tightened. We all, as a people, are more vigilant. We feel that we're coming out of this tough time."

US Airways, which has struggled against low-fare competitors in recent years, saw its losses accelerate after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It was particularly hard hit because of a three-week shutdown of Washington's Reagan National Airport, one of its most profitable hubs.

The airline posted a $766 million third-quarter loss in 2001. Fourth-quarter earnings are to be released this month.

On Dec. 2, US Airways discontinued operation of its MetroJet fleet, which was based at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

But, earlier this week, US Airways said that it has no plans to follow in the footsteps of America West Airlines in applying for federal loan guarantees included in the $15 million airline bailout package that followed Sept 11.

US Airways Group Inc. of Arlington, Va., the airline's parent, said the carrier is starting the year with about $1 billion in cash reserves.

In a written statement, US Airways' Vice President of Marketing Stephen M. Usery said: "We are excited to begin working with the Eisner Communications team as we position US Airways for the future."

Despite, the airline's financial woes, Eisner said he has no concerns about being paid.

"We've gotten every sign that they're going to be as responsible as we'd like them to be," he said.

Work done by the agency will start to appear as early as February, Eisner said.

"We see US Airways as a strong international brand," he said. "Our job through and through is to make its name resonate with customers and potential passengers, as well as with their employees."

Now in its 63rd year, Eisner Communications reported billings of $248 million in 2001. The firm specializes in the creation and promotion of brand identity through integrated communications.

Eisner's clients include: the Maryland State Lottery, the Go RVing Coalition, the Washington D.C. Convention and Tourism Corp., AMF Bowling Worldwide, Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Nature Conservancy.

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