This story was originally published in Glossy, Modern Retail’s sibling publication.
At the onset of summer, Ouai wanted to transport its customers to St. Barts with the help of JetBlue.
During the month of June, Ouai tapped into an in-flight advertising opportunity with JetBlue. The ad, featuring its St. Barts-scented body products, was meant to evoke a glamorous, sexy and sophisticated mood board for viewers. The month-long campaign, called “Wanna Get A-Ouai,” ran as a pre-roll video before JetBlue’s safety video, guaranteeing exposure to 3 million people on 28,000 flights. The ad heavily features quick flashes of fruits, St. Barts products and models in bathing suits using the products, all within an atmosphere of sun-kissed beaches.
Ouai partnered with OOH agency Quan Media Group for the JetBlue opportunity after initially partnering in 2022 for the brand’s first large-scale OOH campaign in a long time, said Nicole Solorzano, director of brand marketing. Solorzano said the JetBlue opportunity appealed to Ouai as an elevated and unexpected way to show up and tell a brand story versus a product-focused version. Ouai does not currently have travel retail or any amenity or hospitality partnerships. However, it does have samples available via a partnership with PS, formerly “Private Suites,” which is a private airport terminal for commercial flights at LAX and ATL airports.
“We were prescriptive about not making the ad feel sales-y. There was lots of internal deliberation over that. There was barely any call to action or copy; we wanted the campaign visuals to speak for themselves,” said Solorzano.
Ouai has built itself up as a premium brand through its sophisticated scent portfolio, with jet-setter names like St. Barts, Cape Town and Melrose Place. Ouai originally launched St. Barts, a scent profile of dragon fruit, orange blossom, tuberose and musk, as a limited-edition scalp and body scrub in 2021. The popularity proved strong, and it has since become a permanent product, with the scent now also offered in a body cream and body cleanser. P&G, which owns Ouai, said in its fourth-quarter and fiscal-year earnings on July 28 that its beauty segment’s organic sales increased 11% year-over-year. Its hair care organic sales increased by high single digits, primarily due to increased pricing and a positive product mix.
“[Airline ads] are somewhat of a new out-of-home tactic,” said Brian Rappaport, founder and CEO of OOH agency Quan Media Group. “Since last year, brands have looked at airports and air travel as an extension of any given market or when they’re looking to add out-of-home.”
The timing worked out well for Ouai, as travel has improved since the low of 2020. According to the U.S Travel Association’s most recent data from May, air travel demand appears to have stabilized somewhat and remained up 10% in May year-over-year. Total travel spending improved to 1.4% above May 2022 levels and was up 5.5% year-to-date through May 2023. Airlines also paint a distinct picture of the popularity of international travel. Delta raised its full-year profit expectations on July 13, as did American Airlines on July 20. United Airlines also boasted record quarterly profit and forecasted a strong third quarter due to the growth of international travel. JetBlue, a predominantly U.S. domestic carrier, cut its full-year profit forecast due to the ending of its American Airlines partnership and a shift away from domestic trips toward international flights.
Solorzano said that, because Ouai wanted to connect the brand with elegant travel, the usual KPI metrics of views and sales lift did not apply. But Ouai did consider the partnership successful because it secured JetBlue’s entire fleet. Plus, there was an unexpected halo effect on social media of people posting an image of the ad and tagging the brand in response to seeing it on their flights. The St. Barts collection sold out twice during this period, although Solorzano said it was impossible to attribute that to its JetBlue ad directly. She declined to comment on the specific investment or cost for the ad, but she said it was cost-efficient, given the cost per million views and low barrier to entry.
“It’s incredibly cost-effective and for how many people you’re reaching and for the uncluttered environment and captive audience; there is a lower CPM [compared to other TV ads] and a high number of impressions,” said Rappaport.
Ouai plans to expand its travel story and is currently exploring opportunities. That could come in there form of a longer advertising campaign or other airport ad opportunities. Travel retail and amenities are a future goal, Solorzano.