ADVERTISER: Turkish Airlines
MARKET: Kinshasa, DR Congo
CHANNEL: Outdoor advertising
“Experience a relaxing moment in our business class »
This billboard is situated at one of the best spots in Kinshasa, precisely where the two busiest arteries meet, namely the Boulevard du 30 Juin and the Avenue des Batetela. The first is home to ministeries and public offices, the second is the address of upscale boutiques, restaurants and elite hotels.
In general, advertisements for business class air travel feature the following recurrent ingredients : a man or woman, middle-aged or senior, in a corporate or classy suit, travelling alone, the tie knot loosened, the shoes off, the laptop or the book handy or nearby… The suggestion is that you are no longer in the office but quite not yet off work. Getting the essence of both the office environment and the five star hotel room, you can either keep on being productive or get the much deserved rest. This traditional messaging is where the Emirates ad herein below belongs to.
Turkish Airlines ad proposes a script where business travel is not a solo, self centered affair, but rather a couple travelling together. Turkish Airlines Business class has less to do with work and more to do with indulgence. Gone are the laptop, the book and the whole arsenal of corporate attributes ; here the de-rigueur attire is wide open neck, short sleeve top for Madame and a V-neck jumper for Monsieur : they are in the business of offering themselves a special, tranquil treat.
Also absent in this ad is the usual abundance of sophistication that other airlines resort to when advertising superior classes, from the full-flat-bed convertible ergonomic seat to the LCD touchscreen TV and the branded amenities kit. Here, the only signs that you are not in economy are the fine entrée (sans premium drinks) and the spacious cabin.
Ultimately, I find that what Turkish’s ad depicts looks like what various carriers (Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, etc.) used to offer a few years ago : Premium Economy. It was an intermediate level between economy and business class, where you would get more legroom and a slightly enhanced economy service. By being subdued, almost frugal in presenting what is supposed to be sparkling and luxurious, this ad risks of leaving the targeted audience – affluent Congolese consumers – unconvinced.
As, by all measures their fortunes kept on growing in the last two decades, rich Congolese consumers have come to express a greater thirst for sophistication and ultimate experiences, notably in air travel. For the most part of this vast country (Africa’s second largest), maritime, road and rail travel is either non-existent or difficult. Air travel is therefore a daily affair for business travellers and private jets are a thriving business. As a result, all-too familiar with premium treatment, they now expect to be wowed when it comes to flying on international routes. And they would be more attracted by The Emirates’ advert which uses the same « relaxation » slogan but peppers the picture with plenty of symbols of materialism and opulence. If you have been in the rich Congolese social circles in Kinshasa, you know extravagance is a habit.
In recent months, Emirates and Turkish Airlines have showed steady aggressiveness among the non-African carriers courting African travellers. Both have publicly cited Africa as a priority opportunity, have augmented their capacity and extended their network. But in terms of sales pitch, they differ in a striking fashion. Having in mind that Dubai remains a preferred destination for African shoppers, Emirates has opted to compete with the heavyweight argument of increased free baggage allowance. On the other hand, Turkish Airlines proposes to make the world more accessible along trade routes, showing no hesitation to open routes with frontier, even fringe markets such as Somalia. While it remains to be seen whether playing the accessibility-trade card attracts affluent travellers, there is little doubt it has a sizeable chance to resonate with the African middle-class as these travellers are showing greater affinity with all-in destinations, such as Istanbul, which offer trade, shopping, tourism.