By AL SENTER, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 01 May 1998 12:00AM
As distances contract between the focal points of the global
village so we’ve become much less tolerant of under-utilised transit
time. People travelling business class now expect to find all their
office accoutrements to hand.
Jane Ostler, managing partner of MindShare Digital, says that as well as
planes, technology can now be found at the humble bus stop and as we
fume in the back of a taxi in rush-hour traffic.
She says: ’London cabs now have power sockets for computers and I’ve
heard that there’s a route tracking device for buses. You can use a
telephone, mobile phone or pager to find out where a particular bus is
and how long you will have to wait for it to arrive.’
But it is still in the skies where technology is at its most
’Now that all the entertainment side has been more or less covered, the
growth will come from the ability to access the Internet and use e-mail
from your seat,’ Ostler adds. Advertising on the Internet in the UK is
now worth pounds 20 million and is tripling every year. The potential of
reaching targeted business audiences inflight is huge.
’People want to use travelling time to prepare for meetings or
communicate with colleagues,’ Ostler says. ’Soon, at specially networked
kiosks and in club lounges you’ll simply swipe your credit card and be
able to pick up e-mails. There’s no escape.’
Charles Vine, marketing director of Spafax, says there is still time in
air travel to sit and stare - but when we have grown tired of watching
wisps of cumulus float past, there will soon be an increasing range of
activities on hand.
’Providing entertainment is becoming more of an issue in helping
customers to decide which airline to travel with. Inflight entertainment
now accounts for between 1 and 1. 5 per cent of the airlines’ marketing
costs. By the year 2016, it is estimated air travel will have reached
two-and-a-half times its current level so there are immense
opportunities for airlines and advertisers.’
Spafax has developed a theory, as yet unproven, that passengers have
different needs during a lengthy air journey.
’At the beginning of a long haul, people are in the mood to receive
bite-sized pieces of information, then, as they relax, they ease
themselves into longer, more demanding articles. By the end of the
flight, something interactive has a great deal of appeal.’
Screens have long been a feature of air travel as have inflight
magazines and Vine predicts a growing role for such publications. But he
warns against an over-aggressive advertising approach.
’Once you’ve bought your ticket, you don’t want to be bombarded by
hard-selling ads and audiences who feel got at in this way can often
transfer their resentment to the airline. Any promotion needs to be
perceived as conferring some kind of benefit on the passenger and it
needs to be integrated with the entertainment available.’
According to a recent OAG Business Travel Lifestyle Survey, reading is
the preferred activity of short-haul passengers. Taking advantage of
this hunger for print - especially newsprint, are companies such as
Johnson’s In-Flight News. Its deputy managing director, Chris Horn,
points to the increasing demands of the travelling public.
’Travellers have their morning paper delivered at home and so they
expect to see it when they set out on their journey as well. Time
sensitivity is very important to business travellers. I would argue that
reading from a screen on an aeroplane is tough - passengers prefer to be
lured into reading a newspaper.’
Road and rail transport have, with varying success, attempted to emulate
the media experience of inflight passengers. Since coach journeys from
London to Scottish destinations can take as much time as an
intercontinental flight, it is surprising that more has not been
provided in the way of entertainment. But, as Kevin Bennett, National
Express’s director of marketing and PR, points out, there are practical
as well as market difficulties to be overcome.
’We’ve dropped the idea of magazines because we found it difficult to
target two of our major segments - students and retired people -
successfully at the same time. Similarly, onboard video polarised
opinion. Individual audio provision would offer a solution but there
would inevitably be cost implications in what is a low margin
The Great Western railway service has also moved away from such tools as
magazines in favour of initiatives such as coaches free of mobile phones
and personal stereos.
Transport has lent itself to ambient media ever since the first
horseless carriage with advertisements emblazoned on its flanks
collected a batch of passengers. The ambient media specialist, Concord,
has pioneered the exploitation of a multitude of sites - from boarding
cards to head-rests, from petrol pumps to pavements. A board director
for Concord, Louise Goulborn, says: ’Both London Underground and the new
railway companies are now much more open to wackier ideas. Snickers, for
example, transformed Wembley Park Station for a Euro 96 promotion and
Citroen Xsara gave Earls Court station a make-over to coincide with the
And, it seems, the public welcomes such promotional extravaganzas.
’An ambient media ambush works best in short, sharp, colourful bursts.
To an extent, ambient media has moved up the hierarchy of vehicles and
almost become respectable. But there’s still a lot of work to be done in
measuring its effectiveness,’ Goulborn adds.
That much-heralded information superhighway now has a network of B-roads
on land, sea and air travel. Travel time is no longer whiled away with
games of I-spy. We can now traverse the world quicker than ever before
and arrive at our destination, refreshed, informed and well briefed. If
interplanetary travel becomes a possibility then inflight media and
marketing opportunities will, literally and metaphorically, be out of
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk