Inflight Marketing Opportunities Missed…

When you think about a domestic or international inflight experience, the airlines hold a very captive audience. As a passenger, there are limited distractions. This is a fertile environment for very targeted communication messages.

Research backs this up. A study conducted by JGM-Research firm uncovered that 39% of Chinese travelers purchased a product after seeing it inflight. And consumers reported recalling 57% of commercials viewed on the flight – so not only is there less clutter, but consumers have a high recall. This insight has long supported the revenue stream for inflight magazines, such as Skymall. These began due to the realisation that you have a consumer’s undivided attention and aren’t competing with other distractions.

Virgin Australia Bring Your Own Device Entertainment Program in economy flights

Based on the insight that most consumers are bringing some sort of device (smartphone, ipad, laptop, etc.) on flights, Virgin launched a BYOD – bring your own device – program to allow in-flight entertainment to be streamed to your device of choice.

The program requires users to download the app before you get on your flight. But – and here’s the kicker – the company doesn’t require any sort of log-on functionality before consumers can access the app and access the entertainment, so they are missing the opportunity to market directly to consumers. Think of the valuable demographic data they could get access to, then market to, with a simple registration.

We believe that if your app has tremendous value to the consumer, and you are giving it away for free, ask a consumer to register for it. My best guess is that people would register for the app as they want to get streaming video services on an economy flight.

And regardless of the registration piece, last time we flew, we didn’t notice Virgin selling sponsorships or advertising within the app to capture their very captive audience – that as mentioned above is a great revenue source.

The Challenges

Before going into the details of how exactly Virgin Australia can capitalize on this missed advertising opportunity, it’s only right that I outline some of the challenges of advertising within this platform. In Australia, we don’t have inflight Internet this poses a few challenges.

  • Refreshing Content – The app will mostly only contain content from the original download. Making it difficult for advertisers to place an ad, because that particular product may no longer be relevant a few months later when the consumer is accessing the app again.
  • Ads Must Contain Whole Story – Since there is no internet, a consumer can’t click out of the ad to learn more on the brand’s webpage or social site.
  • Lead Generation – The lack of internet also makes it challenging for companies to generate leads through the app, because there isn’t the ability for consumers to fill out a form and submit or make a transaction without an Internet connection.
  • Targeting Relevant Ads – the great thing about the internet for advertisers today is extremely relevant content can be served up to consumers based on their profile online – whether or not they are logged into Facebook, or Google, or Apple. And the content can be even more targeted if they are logged in based on personal preferences, past purchase/browsing data and demographic information. However, without internet, the ads are less targeted and less hyper-relevant.

The good news is there are some workarounds…

Without Connectivity, How Can Marketers Refresh Content?

It’s true that once an app is downloaded, technically you never HAVE to refresh the content. However, since technology and operating systems are evolving so quickly, apps typically require updates a few times a year. It’s not unusual to update apps regularly, asking the consumer to connect to the Internet to update the app.

So the content within an app can be refreshed with the automatic update (perhaps quarterly) – giving advertisers the opportunity to update their ad or create a new ad buy. Additionally, the app can be programmed to give push notifications to consumers based on their activities inside the app.

Additionally, if the app collects personal information, like an email, Virgin can provide advertisers the opportunity to target consumers outside of the app, creating more relevant advertising opportunities.

Containing the Whole Story – Creative/Landing Pages

This one is a little tricky, but just may mean larger ads or video ad formats, or section “takeovers” that allow advertisers to provide the room or details for the story. The message should be simple, the CTA simple. And the content fairly evergreen with the expectation that it will likely be refreshed quarterly (assuming the consumer downloads the update). Getting creative sorted out early will be a challenge for some advertisers.

Generating Leads

This is probably the hardest part about lack of Wi-Fi connectivity. How can Virgin help convert leads without the Internet? Well, the good news is that Skymall has been generating revenue for their products for years, sans internet. Folks either take the magazine home or are able to place the order from their seat.

So how can Virgin create the same experience with an app? Perhaps there is functionality where ads can be “pinned” to the app home page or desktop, so consumers can revisit later. Or Virgin can provide a service where flight attendants will take an order in flight (like they do for beverages) and the transaction goes through post flight. You could have a click to open up the default email program within the operating system of the mobile device to send an email enquiry. Finally, you could ask the consumer to create a text to be sent once flight mode is disabled.


For years, advertisers have leveraged magazine, newspaper and TV advertising, which relies on knowing very little about the consumer. Either they focus with a broad awareness message or tailor content based on the type of magazine, print section, TV show or region of the country the ad will appear in.

Virgin Australia can take advantage of that type of thinking by offering sponsorships within their certain types of content. A sports channel, or a home & garden’s channel. As simple as a BTYB (brought to you buy logo) or a custom branded content section.

I feel there are a lot of opportunities for Australia’s airlines to offer advertising within their Inflight Entertainment App that can be both beneficial to consumers, advertisers and their own revenue stream. Have you seen something similar elsewhere? Let us know in the comments below.

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