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Will British Airways go for the classic or the upstart?

The airliner is considering which of two very different ad agencies it will employ

This week British Airways is expected to announce which agency will handle its advertising and is expected to break with tradition by handing all creative advertising, digital marketing and customer loyalty programmes to a single agency.

There are just two agencies left in the running for what is arguably Britain’s most prestigious advertising work. And they couldn’t be more different.

One is the incumbent for the creative work, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, which has been the country’s most consistently accomplished ad agency over the past 20 years. BBH is renowned for making highly creative and effective campaigns, from Levi’s in the 1980s to “The Lynx Effect” for Unilever’s best-selling male fragrance. BBH’s recent work for BA has included the “To Fly, To Serve” TV commercials.

The other contender, SapientNitro,  is a fast-growing digital consultancy that started by building websites. European boss Nigel Vaz was reputedly an entrepreneurial millionaire while still in his teens and has helped transform a tech consultancy into one of Britain’s biggest marketing agencies. Sapient has hired a number of top creatives and planners, giving it the ability to offer more classic advertising and brand strategy alongside its tech base.

So  should the iconic British brand opt for the classic creative shop or the digital upstart?

Both agencies have been trying to prove that they too have changed with the times. New BBH CEO Ben Fennell has formed alliances to enable his agency to be more digital and Vaz is positioning Sapient as a consultancy that can also help brands with “outstanding storytelling in a digital world”.

The marketing team at the “World’s Favourite Airline” is about to show its own direction of travel. And this could mean severe turbulence for the advertising world.