British Airways face advertisement

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British Airways Face (1989).png
Smiling face formed by a crowd of people
Agency Saatchi & Saatchi
Client British Airways
Language English
Running time 60 seconds
Release date(s) 1989 (Television)
Directed by Hugh Hudson
Music by Malcolm McLaren, Yanni

The British Airways "Face" Advertisement was a television commercial campaign by British Airways in 1989. The commercial was made by advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi,[1] it was written by Graham Fink and Jeremy Clarke and directed by Hugh Hudson. It is often considered to be a television commercial classic.


The advertisement was produced in the US state of Utah, with thousands of extras participating in the advertisement. Places of production included Salt Lake City, Lake Powell, and the salt flats near Moab, Utah.


Viewers first see a group of swimmers swimming, all wearing red clothing. A close-up of one of the swimmer's lips appear, and then, a quick cut into an aerial view of the swimmers walking out of the water in the shape of a human lip.

Afterwards, viewers see a group of people, wearing blue and black, walking on the streets of a city, forming the shape of an eye. And then, a group of people, wearing white, walking on a grassland and forming the shape of an ear. Afterwards, these groups of people (with the exception of the group that formed the ear, perhaps because they will eventually form the face instead) gather on a salt flat, and a scene is shown where people from all walks of life, from all cultures around the world unite, with the British Union Jack in the background, and British Airways crew members in the midst of it.

The scene then cuts to an aerial view of the face, which smiles and winks. Afterwards, the face turns into the impression of the globe.

The sound track is "Aria" by Yanni and Malcolm McLaren, an adaptation of the Flower Duet from Léo Delibes' 1883 opera Lakmé.[2]


There are three versions of the commercial. One is the original version, which was recut into another version around 1994 because new uniform was introduced for British Airways crew members. Another version was aired during Christmas, where the ending was replaced with a child hugging Father Christmas and a cut into a view of Earth from space.


The ad is often considered to be a British Airways classic, and it is ranked 62 on the 100 Greatest TV Ads programme aired by Channel 4 in 2000.[3] This was a poll conducted by Channel 4 and The Sunday Times. It ranked higher on ITV1's "ITV's Best Ads Ever" programme aired in 2005, ranking at number 15.[4]

Subsequent advert[edit]

The subsequent British Airways advertisement from 1990 featured a small island, and people who have arrived on the island and helicopter are seen stretching large coloured sheets of white, red and blue, and are arranged in such a way so that at the end of the advert, the island resembles the atlas of Earth.


In 1994 the ad was parodied by Hotpoint for their washing machines, featuring crowds of people in the shape of articles of clothing like T-shirts and underpants set to similar music.

Australia's "Big Ad" for Carlton Draught beer, from 2005, parodies the Face ad in many ways.

In 2007 Silverjet parodied the ad, using the same locations and the Flower Duet aria on which the music for the original ad was based. The Silverjet ad also features a face, but it is formed of only four bodies (two eyes, mouth and nose) to emphasize the exclusivity of an all business class airline. Likewise the music is minimalist, quickly cutting to an a cappella recording of the Flower Duet, the use of the original opera version, rather than a pop rerecording again evoking the exclusivity of the airline. This ad was made by the makers of the original ad then at M&C Saatchi, having lost the British Airways contract.[5]


  1. ^ "Perspective – How will M&C adjust to life after British Airways?". Campaign Magazine. 2005-10-14. 
  2. ^ "British Airways - Face". SplendAd. Archived from the original on 26 March 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  3. ^ UK TV Adverts - Fun Facts
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-03-05. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  5. ^ "" Silverjet – Face commercial" Retrieved on 6 December 2009

External links[edit]