This month Cathay Pacific celebrates 40 years of non-stop flying between Hong Kong and Sydney, beginning with the CX101 service which touched down on 22nd October 1974.
You may think brands partnering with pop stars, creating 'experiential events' to bring the brand to life and providing opportunities to engage directly with the public is all quite new to the world of modern marketing.
But back in 1974 when Cathay Pacific Airways was getting ready to launch the first of its three-times weekly non-stop service between Sydney and Hong Kong, the airline did all of these things – and more.
In the lead up to the first flight on 21 October that year, on a Boeing 707 jet, the airline enlisted a group of its own pilots and flight attendants to tour Australia with leading Cantonese pop star and actress Frances Yip and, curiously, a 22-man Gurkha pipe band.
The promotion began in Perth and travelled to Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart, Canberra and Brisbane, before arriving in Sydney.
Earlier that year, Hong Kong 'Cantopop' star Frances Yip had recorded a Cathay Pacific branded album “Discovery” with a title track about flying with the airline, while others tracks portrayed destinations on the network – with Australia represented by Waltzing Matilda.
They were all part of a Cathay Pacific show in which Frances sang, the flight attendants took part in fashion shows wearing their national costumes and the British and Australian pilots spoke reassuringly about working with the ‘Oriental’ airline.
Legendary Aussie adman Leo Schofield was then the copywriter for the advertising campaign and recalls that 40 years ago, it was important to talk up the credentials of flight crew.
“Australians were used to flying with Qantas or British Airways" Schofield explains. "So we wanted to reassure them that Cathay Pacific pilots were just as reliable and skilful in the cockpit, and had attentive flight attendants as well."
"So we wrote the line – ‘You’ll fly with people who care – experienced Australian and British pilots and flight engineers, charming Asian hostesses.’”
And while they were in Sydney in preparation for the first flight from Sydney to Hong Kong, those charming flight attendants and pilots worked hard.
Along with the promotional tour, fashion shoots and interviews, they were photographed and filmed for the airline’s advertising campaign.
Australian Captain Hal Dyball – now retired and living in Sydney's eastern suburbs – was one of the pilots whose face was consistently seen in newspaper advertisements, on posters and TV and cinema ads.
“In those days, I couldn’t go to the movies without seeing myself on the big screen,” he laughs. “I not only appeared in the filmed ads, but also saw my face on posters on the windows of travel agents all over Sydney.”
Watch one of the original Cathay Pacific TV advertisements below
Meanwhile in Hong Kong, promotion of the new Sydney service included Australian fashion parades and cricket clinics taught by none other than Dennis Lillee and Rodney Marsh.
The inaugural Hong Kong-Sydney flight included leading dignitaries of the day as well as a number of journalists, and similarly the return flight from Sydney (crewed by then First Officer Hal Dyball and others from the promotional tour) saw journalists and the Daly-Wilson Big Band booked to continue the celebrations in Hong Kong.
And how much did that flight cost? In 1974, an economy return ticket from Sydney to Hong Kong in 1974 could be bought for $541.90.
While that was a grand sum in the mid-70s, today the same ticket can be booked from as little as $857.
That's not only a barely $300 increase in 40 years, it represents a far smaller portion of the average weekly wage.
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