TRAVEL MEDIA: FLIGHT MEDIA - New media opportunities, from ambient to digital, are making airline travellers more accessible than ever before

Airline media have evolved, until recently, in a piecemeal fashion.

Airline media have evolved, until recently, in a piecemeal


Today, however, a more integrated approach to how inflight and airport

advertising is packaged and sold is widening its appeal beyond its core

advertising base: luxury and duty free goods.

A key attraction of in-flight media is the captive audience that

advertisers can reach. By 2000, an estimated 1.72 billion scheduled

passengers will be travelling by plane each year. And for the duration

of most of their journey they will be, quite literally, a captive


Not only are many of these travellers upmarket businessmen and women who

are hard to reach using other forms of media, but their attitude whilst

travelling is favourable for advertising communications, in-flight media

specialists claim.

’They are in an environment that is cut off from usual distractions -

which makes them far more receptive to advertising,’ Claire Broadbent,

deputy managing director of Premier Magazines, says. ’Add to this

growing opportunities to reach them in striking and original ways, and

we are confident there is still scope left for further, significant


Premier publishes the British Airways titles, High Life and Business

Life, and last year set up a one-stop in-flight media shop, BA Media, in

partnership with BA - a mark of the growing importance of advertising

revenue to the airline. This year, in-flight media is expected to

generate around pounds 10 million in advertising revenue for BA,

Broadbent says.

Growth in airline media is also being fuelled by media becoming even

more innovative, advertising packages more flexible and evaluation

techniques more sophisticated.

For many years, in-flight print media has accounted for the bulk of

in-flight advertising. According to the latest available figures, 85 per

cent of global airline advertising revenue comes from in-flight printed

materials and just 15 per cent from TV. This, however, looks set to

change as new technology enhances in-flight multimedia entertainment and

as a plethora of ambient media become available.

The development of in-flight entertainment packages on radio and TV, for

example, has had a significant impact in the past two years, with the

introduction of personalised media packages via seat-back screens in

business and first class on a growing number of long-haul flights.

According to Wale Adepoju, head of consulting at the airline media

specialist, Spafax, advertising recall amongst premium passengers in

first and business class is 50 per cent, but becomes significantly

better when these passengers can choose their own viewing from a

personalised seat-back TV.

Ambient in-flight and airport media has also had a dramatic

attention-grabbing effect. At BA Media, the commercial director,

Caroline Warrick, says that ambient opportunities are now available to

meet almost every advertiser’s need.

Traditional on-board media were unable to successfully delineate between

first, business and economy class passengers. Increasingly, new

opportunities allow advertisers to target their messages geographically

(by route); economically (by travelling class); and by location (at

home, en route to the airport, in the business lounge, at the departure

gate, and so on).

Advertising is frequently carried on the tickets, packed alongside

frequent-flyer correspondence, in in-flight headphone packets and on

coasters and placemats used for in-flight meals. This allows for

unprecedented targeting.

’Advertisers want something different, but at the same time you have to

be careful to avoid clutter - we don’t want to bombard passengers

non-stop,’ Warrick says. BA Media is currently considering the potential

for extending ambient further with advertisers’ messages carried on eye

shades, sleeper suits, wash bags and even chop sticks.

Another shift has been in the marketing of in-flight media to

advertisers, with a new focus on the ’total travelling experience’ -

from before the passenger leaves home; through their journey to the

airport; time spent in the departure lounge; boarding, spending time on

and disembarking from the plane; and finally the trip to their final


Opportunities like those offered by the Heathrow Express rail link to

central London are being used by a growing number of brands.

’It adds value to campaigns to extend the communication beyond the

on-board and airport experience,’ explains Charlotte George, account

manager at Katz Dimensions, which holds the Heathrow Express contract to

sell space on the on-board TV service, on-board poster sites and

seat-back leafleting.

Overall the market is becoming sophisticated and advertiser-responsive,

Chris Modram, sales director at Sky Sites, says. His company handles

Euronetwork, a package of 240 back-illuminated poster panels in 12

airports across Europe. ’Short-term campaign packages are now

available,’ he says. ’This allows flexibility comparable with other

forms of outside media.’

There is also a greater emphasis on accountability with more being

invested in research by airline media providers. This is necessary not

only to grow existing business, which is predominantly focused on

upmarket and business travellers, but to more aggressively target other

types of passenger, Modram says.

’Traditionally, data has been available on who these travellers are,

their disposable income, where they are going and for how long, but not

how the advertising is being consumed - with the exception of in-flight

magazines where a lot of data already exists,’ he says. ’We are now

funding our own studies to better understand this, and also to support

expansion of the leisure audience, which is the next growth market for


Much of the growth in the number of people travelling by air is

anticipated to be among people travelling for leisure. ’Already, many

people take at least two holidays abroad each year,’ Modram says. Far

more people are travelling by air and it is widely acknowledged that

while doing so, they are in the mood to spend, as is proven by the

recent expansion of retail facilities at larger airports.’

Latest industry estimates suggest dollars 350 million worth of

advertising revenue is now being generated each year by in-flight media

opportunities - excluding poster, ambient and sponsorship opportunities

available in airports and on related transport links. Small wonder that

many are now predicting significant future growth.