In-flight entertainment is the Holy Grail for travel marketers by Guy Bradbury, Atomic London

In-flight entertainment is one of the only places left with a totally captive audience - for most travellers, once the seatbelt sign has been switched on there is no access to the internet, no phone calls, texting or emails; they are at the mercy of the small screen on the back of the seat in front of them.

With a limited number of distractions, brands have the perfect opportunity to connect with people at 30,000 feet. And yet, some brands are still not taking full advantage of this space, a space which could soon no longer exist.

Brands can create their content to be useful or to be entertaining, or more often than not, a bit of both. By being truly useful and relevant to the passenger, brands could provide content that would help them when they land in a new country, or give them information about the destination – something that they won’t have known about or considered.

When content is truly entertaining it reflects on the brand, and becomes something people look forward to when boarding a plane. A good example of this is Air New Zealand’s inflight safety films – year on year, they have been very entertaining (although not without some controversy) and are something that passengers look forward to when boarding the plane. This is uncommon in the extensive catalogue of airline safety films; most people’s attention soon migrates to their book, kindle, or even the in-flight magazine.

When it comes to in-flight entertainment, our client Star Alliance takes the more ‘entertaining’ approach by featuring some of the member carrier airlines’ most celebrated customers and frequent flyers, who are at the peak of their profession.

With these campaigns we want to grant the viewer something that would want repeat viewings for entertainment whilst informing about the benefits of the Alliance.

For Turkish Airlines we featured world champion free diver Şahika Ercümen, for Thai Airways we featured Thai boxing World Champion Buakaw Banchamek, for EVA Air we featured world renowned dancer Fang-Yi Sheu, and more recently we had legendary jazz musician Hugh Masekela for South African Airways. Hugh’s soul filled performance provides the viewer with an uninhibited look into the beautiful sound an improvised trumpet and piano can make.

On the day of the shoot for the ad, Hugh turned up and told us he hadn’t composed any music beforehand. Hugh later said he’d wanted to capture the feeling he gets when travelling around the world, and the result was an inspiring piece of content that South African Airways travellers could listen to and enjoy.

The opportunities provided in-flight are not limited to the airlines alone, and travel brands should look to partner with carriers to provide entertaining content for viewers. In advertising we talk about the ‘value exchange’, where the savvy consumer knows the value of their attention and demands something in return from the brand in question.

While the likes of Virgin have done a sterling job in providing reams of audio and visual entertainment paid for on licence, there’s still a gap that branded content could fill.

Access to Wi-Fi in the sky could of course change the game if people can connect to Facebook or watch their favourite Netflix shows. But, for now, the lack of mobile signal provides the rarest of chances for brands to connect with their audience in an entertaining and truly useful way.


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