TRAVEL MEDIA: HOW TO REACH PEOPLE ON THE MOVE - When travellers tire of staring out of plane or train windows, advertisers swoop - and they have a formidable range of tools at their disposal. Al Senter reports on a growing market

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.

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

Motor Show.’

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 world.