Spirit Brings Ads to Overhead Bins, Bulkheads, and More

Advertising, Spirit

To be honest, I’m really surprised that it took this long for an airline to do this, but if anyone was going to take the plunge, it’s Spirit. The airline has decided that it’s time to plaster aircraft interiors with advertising. Welcome to the subway in the sky.

Spirit Onboard Advertising

From what I can gather, Spirit will now sell ads on overhead bins, seat backs, tray tables, the area above the windows, bulkheads, napkins, cups, menus, boarding passes, soap dispensers, and yes, even trash bags. And if you can suggest another place to put it, I have no doubt that they will.

The benefit to passengers is clear. More ad revenue means that the airline can make money on lower fares (though check out today’s post on BNET for a little more on their profitability). As long as you’re willing to endure ads everywhere, this can benefit you. And really, Spirit is the right airline to do this.

But what about for advertisers? It cracks me up the way Spirit sells onboard advertising in the press release. “Why pay for a five-second gaze time on a billboard when you have more than 2,000 times the viewing exposure aboard a three-hour flight?” Yes! I’m in. I think it’s time to revisit my original Skybus plan . . .

07_04_11 Skybusads

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25 comments on “Spirit Brings Ads to Overhead Bins, Bulkheads, and More

  1. Hmmm… There’s an intangible cost to these ads which includes passengers getting the impression they’re riding in a traveling billboard. Let’s face it. The impression a plane covered in advertisements gives is not one of safety and security.

    Sure, any space is potential ad space, but I think this just gives marketing departments at the competition the ability to differentiate themselves further. Think of all the great ads the Southwest team could come up with.

    My question is, is the advertising revenue a function of load factor, or is it a base rate?

  2. Ha! Here in Europe Ryanair (no frills, no fun airline) already do that.

    Take it from me that you should be very concerned as it’s the thin end of the wedge…

    As you wait for the plane to take off Ryanair also plays adverts (albeit for its own products) over the PA. And in case that weren’t bad enough they are over a repetitious and deeply annoying tune.

    I have vowed only to fly with frills from now on.

  3. Interesting to see what type of advertising is allowed and what isn’t ?

    No matter what I think someone is going to be offended sooner or later and want to switch seats.

    Too bad that can’t have a way to purchase what is on the advertising right then and there to take advantage of the fresh impulse.

  4. CF, nothing personal, but all those pictures of you, scare me.

    I have to admit, it’s better than Pepto Bismol ads on US tray tables.

  5. Court – I have to imagine it’s just going to be a base rate. It’s way too much of a pain to bill based on load factor for that particular aircraft. It’s just not worth it.

    Jeff K – I do wonder if they’re going to split it up that way. Maybe I could buy seat 22D? My guess is that if you buy the seatbacks, you’ll buy them all, but I suppose I could be wrong. Of course, the bulkhead could have someone else and the overhead bins could have another.

    But you’re right – if they make it so you could act immediately, it would be huge, but that would require some sort of IFE and I can’t imagine they’re going to do that.

    L1011 – It kind of scares me as well, to be quite honest.

  6. I agree with Court. Its tacky and I hate it. I don’t even like the slideshow ads on seat back IFE screens and immediately darken them.

    When I fly I enjoy stuffing in the earplugs, reading, and periodically glancing out the window. Not that ads would stop me from doing that, but I guess I prefer the sickly looking gray/yellow plain panels and bulkheads as opposed “livening” them up with ads.

    Saiding that, to speculate, it seems the thing the airline(s) are missing with this is extreme target marketing, (or the “very long tail” of us travelers) Spirit already has a market of mostly leisure travelers, (i believe,) which makes it easy for their sales staff to focus on a specific demo, But what COULD be the next step is more targeted advertising, especially via personal IFEs. With all of the info that airlines have on pax through mileage programs and profiles, and whatever other partner companies are involved, I think it’d be easy for a third party company to step in and “target market in your seat” to you.

    For example after all seats are confirmed and seat changes are done at the gate, a program could just load in YOUR ads, (and programming) based on your profile. I’d get ads for cool jeans and Apple gadgets, the older lady next to me would see ads for gardening gear and spas in Sedona.

    Note this isn’t “invading your privacy,” but ads based on your more drilled down demo. Its personal, and it beats Skymall. I’d still darken the screen, but I find the concept interesting.

    off topic – I read a rumor on flyertalk of UAL pulling out of Palmdale. I’ve loved following this absurd build up – predict any official news coming soon?

  7. james – I’ve talked about that sort of advertising as well, I’m sure it’s in the works.

    As for PMD, it’s true. I’m putting together a second post today about it.

  8. Yea Cranky, like Ryan in Europe Chinese airlines here in mainland China have done this for a while now. Seat backs all plastered with ads, and some on bins and trashbags. They don’t look nearly as nice as Spirit’s, but same thing…China Eastern, China Southern and Air China all have had them for at least 5 years.

  9. I guess I’m alone here – I think it’s great(albeit very tacky) – for an airline like Spirit anyway that’s mostly leisure (and the King of Tacky, no?). I rarely do anything but read, sleep or stare out the window-what else could I be doing, I guess? so I don’t see how these adds are going to be in any way bothersome.
    Some mornings on the subway ride I have to admit I rather enjoy them – anything’s better than staring at the crazy guy across from me.
    Loved the pic, cranky. Scary, yes… but good.

  10. I’m waiting for the ads to appear on flight attendants’ behinds. Wait for it…wait for it….

  11. ed nyc – I’m with you. This is Spirit, it’s what they probably should be doing. Now if it were United . . .

    Tucano – There are just so many easy jokes to make, it’s not even worth it . . . . (But I’m waiting to see it as well.)

  12. I’m with ed nyc – I find the ads to be just fine, especially if it means it will keep fares lower and affordable for us, the masses.

    I do take issue with your last comment, CF, that you don’t think this would be appropriate for United. I would have agreed with you a few years ago, but in the race to the bottom, United provides no better service in its Economy cabin than Spirit – and I would even argue that Spirit deserves more credit for at least being up front about the fact that they will get you to your destination and nothing else. But seriously, United charges fees for EVERYTHING, provides nothing special in Coach (and from reviews I read online, even their premium products leave much to be desired). So why not United? If it means they stop raising fees indefensibly, then by all means! United has already cheapened their product to no end, might as well go all the way and attempt to be semi-profitable, no?

  13. Artie – Fair enough. It would just be another in the long line of inconsistencies for United. I suppose the problem is that United still like to pretend it’s a premium carrier.

  14. As people have mentioned, Ryanair in Europe are quite happy to run ads for a fee anywhere they can on a plane. The audio ones (e.g. for alcohol and lottery scratchcards) which plug products sold onboard are annoying but bearable.

    Interestingly, while they have been going on for a while about trying to sell ads on seatbacks, overhead bins and the exterior of the plan, I have never seen another company’s ads on these locations. I don’t know for certain, but I would guess that there just haven’t been that many takers for this kind of advertising space.

    Budget airlines have a model of a single aircraft type which means they can switch aircraft at short notice if need be – this means they can’t always guarantee which route a plane will fly – particularly important to advertisers in Europe who want to focus ads on one particular country. Further, does a company risk its brand being devalued or at least losing a bit of control of its brand if too closely associated by consumers with Ryanair ? Brand awareness needs 5 seconds – putting it in front of someone for 3 hours may well be counterproductive and the marketing people may know this !

    If I was a marketing exec for a multinational, I’d be keen to maintain brand control and avoid being seen too closely with a particular airline that does not have a reputation for always being consumer friendly.

  15. Right, we knew Ryanair does that.

    I kind of would have expected Southwest to do it here, first, though. Why did you think Spirit, Cranky?

    And your CF ad is terrifying. Hilarious, but terrifying. ;)

  16. Benji – Spirit likes to call itself the first Ultra Low Cost Carrier, so they would do anything to enable lower fares. That’s why I figured they’d go first.

  17. The newspaper has ad, magazines have ads, it’s not like we don’t see ads everywhere we do. I’m actually tired of seeing ads thrown in my face everywhere I go and every think I look at. Funny how these company’s spend millions to show their product in ads, and we the public are tired of ads. Would people not go to McDonalds or Wal-Mart if they didn’t see ads on TV for those places, I think not.

    The only bad things about ads on planes is that you will have bored people with ink pens and magic markers doing their own ‘art’ work on the ads. I’m sure parents will love the creative language their child will be looking at for 5 hours across country. Will airlines have to hire more workers to clean and replace those ads every day when they are defaced. Should be interesting to see how this plays out.

  18. Ryanair is nasty.

    I gotta fly Air Asia soon, thankfully it will be very early in the morning after 20+ hours of flying, so I won’t mind the pain.

    All that cranky all over the plane..oy!

  19. Just think of all the legal BS that will occur some day when there is a major disaster involving one of these ad-laden planes, and the advertisers scramble the Ad-Hiding-Force to the crash site with duct tape and tarps to make sure no pictures of charred wreckage/bodies with ads visible near them make it out to the public eye.

  20. Advertising inside an airplane is a clever use of what little blank space remains on transportation vessels. Organizations can put their image on every corner of an airplane while consumers can continue to enjoy lower fares. And Spirit is the logical candidate to begin this trend as its shorter flights will not leave passengers weary of the same advertisements.

    You seem to satirize this proposal, when in fact I think you should embrace it. These advertisements will provide reinforced messages that all passengers will see, as opposed to a “five-second gaze” on a highway billboard.

    While Spirit has announced this initiative, it is not the first airline to have advertising on its airplanes. Dunkin’ Donuts and DirecTV’s deals to provide coffee and television on jetBlue flights give them advertising space on cups and seat backs. Snacks on a jetBlue flight also come in their original packaging as opposed to packaging with the airline’s brand on it.

    We must also consider whether this opens the door to advertising on the exterior of an airplane. Last year, some of the cars on Amtrak’s Acela Express ran the northeast corridor with an external wrap advertising the History Channel’s “1968 with Tom Brokaw.” An airplane’s exterior must have that airline’s logo on it (something Amtrak can avoid with its monopoly on rail transportation), but will we see that logo share space with another organization’s one of these days?

  21. Ryan – Why can’t I satirize and embrace it? I think I made it quite clear that this is a good idea for Spirit in my post, but there’s nothing wrong with having fun with it.

    Regarding logojets, there have been plenty of examples of them over the years. Probably the most famous was the Western Pacific Simpsons Logojet. It was most recently done by Skybus with Nationwide Insurance, and on the other side of the Pond, it’s a far more common occurrence.

  22. Well did you happen to think this may be what helps keep the ticket prices lower??
    Also, yes there are baggage fees but those that dont have them, have tickets that cost about the difference of what you would have paid so really…..THEY DO have baggage fees.

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