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A leading innovation and marketing blog from Braden Kelley of Business Strategy Innovation

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Targeting By The Seatback Of Your Pants

targeting seatback advertising Flying to Hawaii a couple of weeks ago, I was remined of the phrase, "You may be talking but nobody is listening." Hawaiian Airlines had seen fit to pollute the cabin with an endless stream of untargeted advertising on the plane's set of televisions (no fancy seatback units here).

Now, at least on American Airlines the "advertising" mostly masquerades as entertainment (CBS sitcoms or clips of Letterman and 60 minutes) to try and loyalize the shows' base or to pull in new viewers, but it's still advertising. American Airlines has traditional advertising as well, but less than what I saw on Hawaiian Airlines.
Broadcast networks have at least some justification for spamming people over the airwaves (it's their only revenue source and they are only able to target based on dominant audience profiles). The availability of on-demand, seatback entertainment systems, leaves airlines with no excuse, and in fact every motivation as advertisers would willingly pay more for targeted impressions.

good seatback entertainment
For targeting purposes, the airlines know who purchased the ticket (likely their age (senior/adult/child), phone number, e-mail, address, zip code, how much they paid, the credit card they paid with, etc.). About frequent fliers they will also know how frequently they fly, their home airport, and maybe even whether they are travelling on business and for which company. So it would definitely be possible to design a system to target advertising in-flight.

At its simplest, airlines could define the programming schedule as a mixture of content blocks and advertising blocks (interstitial advertising) and target the advertising by seat, using passenger data. Passenger data could be loaded up at the beginning of each flight by a gate agent using a USB key, smartcard, or other portable data storage device. Every seat could potentially receive a different combination of commercials during the flight.

seatback targeting
Airlines wishing to avoid interstitial advertising could design a more complex system to support advertising that would appear during the programming (as banners, or whatever). Whichever way the airlines went, they have the opportunity to create a system that would likely attract the highest rates for video advertising on the planet to help them pay for the increasingly expensive fuel to fly the plane.
Now where did I put that ticket again?

P.S. I also thought it was interesting that Hawaiian Airlines has chosen to go "cash-free" and only accept debit and credit cards. I agree with offering it as an option, but I'm not sure I agree with abandoning cash. Why would you want to do anything to make it more difficult for people to give you their money?


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