Fly the Branded Skies

Jingle: British Airways “Fly the Flag” (1975)

Fly the Flag

Listen: British Airways: “Fly the Flag”

For many years, from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, “Fly the Flag” was British Airways’ exhortation to travellers to do the patriotic thing: fly the state-owned carrier, the one with the Union Jack on the tail of all its aircraft.

Yet the jingle was commissioned by an American agency in London. Written by an American songwriter. Sung by what, to my ears, sound like American studio singers.

In short, British Airways may be British. But its jingle was 100% American.

Here’s the original television spot:

In the 1970s, British Airways was not exactly beloved by the great British public. Service was dreadful. British Airways’ initials were said to stand for “Bloody Awful.” And note the promise in the jingle: not “we’ll take good care of you.” Just “we’ll take more care of you.”

Patriotism, as they say, is the last refuge of the failing airline. In the seventies, patriotism was really all British Airways had.

So, ironically, they created a jingle that was stylistically indistinguishable from the jingles being produced by airlines on the other side of the Atlantic. It was composed by Jake Holmes, the prolific jingle writer behind the U.S. Army’s “Be All That You Can Be” and Pan Am’s “We Fly the World The Way the World Wants to Fly.” In fact I think the only difference between this jingle and an American one is that this one might sound a bit overblown, even by the standards of 1970s American advertising.

The jingle must have made some impression. It ran for several years and was apparently even adapted for the 1982 World Cup:

On Sept. 15, 1982, Sir John King, the chairman of British Airways, fired Foote, Cone and hired Saatchi and Saatchi. This is perhaps still one of the most controversial agency assignments in history; the British Airways account was widely seen as a reward to the Saatchi brothers for supporting Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives in the 1979 election. But that wasn’t the real reason, according to Saatchi executive Simon Mellor:

“Apart from thinking that our campaign was best, I think British Airways probably chose us because they thought it appropriate that the nation’s flag-carrying airline should have a British advertising agency rather than an American one.”

Saatchi scrapped “Fly the Flag” the very same day.

Airline: British Airways
Title: “Fly the Flag”
Agency: Foote, Cone & Belding, London
Written By: Jake Holmes
Year: 1975
Lyrics

We’ll take more care of you.
Fly the flag…

There’s sunshine, a familiar face,
a whole world waiting for you.
There’s all the fun of getting there,
All the people and places
we can take you to.

We’ll take more care of you.
Fly the flag. Fly the flag.
We’ll take more care of you.
Fly the flag!

Instrumental bridge

Far off cities, magic planes,
a wide world to explore.
Excitement, new experience,
and we would like to help you
find the places you’re looking for.

We’ll take more care of you.
Fly the flag. Fly the flag.
We’ll take more care of you!
Fly the flag!
We’ll take more care of you!
Fly the flag!
We’ll take more care of you!
Fly the flag!
We’ll take more care of you!
Fly the flag!

(My apologies for the scratchy recording. It comes from a promotional flexidisc that is now nearly 40 years old and in somewhat less than perfect condition.)

Reactions

  • gal

    Thank you very much 30 years iv looked for this…and today you brought a tear to my eyes through years gone by…thanks a gain

  • http://fly.cameronfleming.com/ Fly the Branded Skies

    That’s wonderful to hear. Thanks very much.

  • gal

    Hi there again….could I be real cheaky and ask if you could send me this song in a file so I could record it for keeps…..it would really be a special honour
    Gal

  • Peta Woolcott

    I have a copy of this!!!