Virgin America hires Carat for search marketing

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Carat has been named the search marketing agency of record for the recently launched airline, Virgin America.

"We're confident that they'll bring our search capabilities to a new level," said Porter Gale, VP of marketing for Virgin America. “They connected with the entrepreneurial spirit of our brand.”

The airline began service on August 8.

The agency will provide paid search marketing and search optimization services for the airline.

Gale said that after reviewing proposals from about six companies, Virgin America chose Carat last week for its experience and breadth of resources. She added that in its presentation, Carat already had many solutions and recommendations.

Carat also has an office in San Francisco, near where Virgin America is based. “Many of their staff members had already flown our airline,” she said.

Virgin America currently flies to San Francisco International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Los Angeles International Airport, Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC, and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. In 2008, the airline plans to expand to San Diego International Airport in February and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in March and, in next five years, to as many as 30 cities. The airline features interactive in-flight entertainment systems, plugs for laptops and other portable electronic devices and "mood lighting,” which changes based on the time of day.

Because the airline is only active in a limited number of markets, local search and geo-targeting is very important, but also more labor intensive, Gale said. “You definitely need an eye for detail and need to implement your search in a very strategic way,” she said of the challenges the airline faces.

And, because many legacy carriers have much larger budgets than Virgin America's, the airline has to be more efficient and strategic. “We can't outspend the big carriers so we have to out-think them,” Gale added.

“We're thrilled to be selected as a marketing partner and look forward to integrating successful search strategies with all of their efforts,” said Sarah Fay, CEO of Carat and Isobar US, in a statement.

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