Delta ads: No longer biggest, but better

United Airlines and Continental Airlines plan to close their merger Friday, creating a Chicago-based carrier that eclipses Delta as the world's largest airline.

Delta, which held the world's largest title for the last two years thanks to its merger with Northwest Airlines, has launched a new advertising campaign in New York emphasizing that Delta is “building a better airline, not just a bigger one.”

A print ad in the campaign continues, "it's easy to forget that size alone isn't enough to lead this industry."

The enlarged United will give Delta a new "gorilla" competitor with similar global reach, said Robert Herbst of

When Delta announced its merger with Northwest, it touted benefits of a larger route network, particularly to attract more corporate business. Delta gained advantages, but "there's still more to go," in developing those opportunities and reducing costs, Herbst said.

Indeed, the Delta ad campaign is called "Keep Climbing." It was developed by Wieden + Kennedy, a firm Delta began working with in May 2009. Commercials launched Sept. 6 in New York. The campaign also includes digital billboards in Atlanta and other cities and will expand in the next year.

Although work on the campaign began before United announced its merger, "Continental and United -- or any other scenarios -- were obviously contemplated in this work," said Delta's senior vice president of marketing Tim Mapes.

The overall campaign highlights Delta's efforts to improve the flying experience.

"There's a perception that the experience has gotten worse, and yet most airlines were still talking about it in 1960s terms, that this is a pleasure... which really doesn't jibe with most people who fly," said Ben Hughes, a Wieden + Kennedy creative director on the Delta account. Delta aims to "acknowledge the truth of flying [and say], ‘We're looking for ways to improve flying large and small.'"

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