Cathay Pacific

Cathay may postpone ad campaign after sex scandal

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 August, 2011, 12:00am

They have already enraged Cathay Pacific's chief executive and cost a pilot and an air hostess their jobs. Now the notorious photographs of the couple's sex act in the cockpit of a plane have sent a multimillion-dollar global advertising campaign for the airline into a tailspin.

In an unfortunate twist, the circulation of images of a Chinese flight attendant performing a sex act on an expatriate pilot in newspapers and on the internet came days ahead of the planned launch of a new phase of Cathay Pacific's 'People and Service' marketing drive.

Featuring candid pictures of flight attendants, pilots and other airline employees in informal poses, the campaign carries the slogan: 'Meet the team who go the extra mile to make you feel special.'

Now, the campaign is under urgent review and the booking of billboards and newspaper and magazine slots worldwide may be cancelled in light of the sex photographs scandal, a management source said.

'The timing of this scandal really could not have been worse in marketing terms,' the source said. 'A whole new set of pictures of staff in off-duty poses has been taken for the next phase of what has been an enormously effective global campaign.

'But the scope for the slogan and the campaign to be misinterpreted, or ridiculed and lampooned, in light of the cockpit incident is obvious. So it looks like it's going to be postponed at least for a while.'

The previous phase of the campaign made mini-celebrities of attractive flight attendants whose images were used in TV ads, publications and billboards worldwide.

Shortly after the campaign was launched last year, one of them, Nancy Hui, said: 'All of a sudden I saw myself everywhere and I realised, 'Oh my God this is huge'. It wasn't just on TV. It was at the bus stop and on the train - it was everywhere.'

Asked about the effects of the scandal on the campaign, a Cathay Pacific spokeswoman said: 'We are thinking of holding the campaign back for a little while because the timing doesn't suit us at the moment.

'Our 'People and Service' campaign has been a fantastic success since we launched it last year and it's important for us to build on that success in order to optimise its impact. We always build flexibility into our marketing strategy to give us room to adapt to changing circumstances. That's what we are considering now, and the cost would be minimal.'

Cathay Pacific chief executive John Slosar said on Friday that the pair involved in the incident had left the airline, although he did not clarify whether they had been dismissed or had left by mutual consent. 'I find any behaviour that recklessly soils the company's reputation or our team members as totally unacceptable,' he said.

The pilot and flight attendant involved are understood to be a couple. The pilot has reportedly complained that the pictures were personal images downloaded from his laptop and distributed without his authority.