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David & Goliath Story

Silverjet takes on British Airways

The story looks familiar, but the budget has shrunk tenfold and it ain't BA. It's Silverjet, the new business class airline that flies London Luton to Manhattan and Dubai.

Yep, M&C Saatchi, have tempted Hugh Hudson back to commercials to film a pastiche of his iconic 1989 BA ad, Face, made through Saatchi & Saatchi. The 60-second spot broke at the weekend during coverage of the Rugby World Cup quarter finals.

Hudson - Oscar Winner for Chariots of Fire and from Ridley Scott Films shot the ad - his first in five years - through RSA Films, but this time on a budget of £300,000 not £2 million, and with a cast of four rather than 1000. These stark comparisons highlight the Silverjet proposition - no clutter, no noise, no queues - just 99 passengers per flight from a private terminal with personal limousine pick up and drive through check in. 

So what's the story? Is it really as mischievous as it seems?

"It's the same ad. A copy. Or a close variation," Hudson tells "It's tongue-in-cheek, it's David and Goliath, and that's what appealed to me. Plus self-parody is always interesting."

Hudson was flown by Silverjet, naturally, to the US to film at the same location as Face, at a white salt lake in Utah. Unlike the BA version, which was shot over three weeks, this took just three days.

"The challenge was to make it near to the original but not quite," says Hudson. "The original had a cast of 1000 people, no CGI, and the challenge was also to make this work with only four people. I remembered the original really well, and we tried to repeat it frame by frame as near as we could."

The similarities don't end there. The soundtrack is the same (the Flower Duet from Delibes' Lakme), as is the name (this, too, is called Face) - however we commissioned a voice artist to record the track solo with no orchestra - just one single voice - again to highlight Silverjet's proposition of simplicity, luxury and affordability. We used Joanna Lumley as the voice over.

The ad received national publicity featuring in all the major broadsheets - mixed reviews being a parody ad which we knew was risky - my honest opinion? I think this was paragon and politics from influencers at Saatchi rather than parody - and without doubt a vanity project for Silverjet investors - what struggling business would spend £250K on a TVC ad and an additional £100K on media spend during RWC - for a luxury product with very niche audience segments? Nevertheless, a great honour to work alongside Hugh Hudson and RSA - it was an unforgettable adventure filming alongside these greats all over the US. Amazing.

I changed the soundtrack to our TVC from Lakme to Swing Low Sweet Chariot for the ad spot during the Rugby World Cup final. 


I also changed the strapline of the ad to “Fly Silverjet … Bring It Home Boys." And also ran a promotion on Friday and Saturday offering passengers who book tickets for New York or Dubai a second ticket free if England wins.

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Luton, UK

I was the Regional Account Director at TBWA managing Etihad Airways across the MENA region spanning 19 local markets. I managed a team of 6 in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. During my tenure, Etihad was the fastest growing airline in the world. 

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