The Inadvia Insights Series: A Journey in Inflight Advertising

In this installment of Inadvia Insights, Inadvia co-founder, Matt Blay, takes us through his two-decade career in inflight advertising. He reflects on his journey to date and dives into what the future will need to look like in a post-Covid world.


Recently, nearly two decades since I started working in inflight advertising, I have been reflecting on my journey to date and what I believe the future for the sector needs to look like.

When you consider the likes of Google, Amazon, pretty much any social media platform and the broader AdTech sector, it is fair to say that digital advertising has been the most progressive sector in its adoption of innovative digital solutions, and they have been rewarded as a result.

Aviation has always been a leading sector in engineering, that is not in question, but it has not embraced digital innovation like many other industries.

Airlines are facing many significant challenges from Covid-19. Safety concerns are driving passenger confidence initiatives such as zero touch cabin, and declining revenues have led to cost-reduction requirements on a scale never seen before as well as a renewed prioritisation of ancillary revenue streams in anticipation of the recovery, to name a few.

It is true that Covid-19 is accelerating digital transformation across many sectors. But I would say that, in response to these challenges, aviation has come along more in the last nine months than it had in the previous nine years.

In 2006 I was responsible for the commercial advertising operations of the inflight entertainment of British Airways Media. By then it was already clear that digital technology was to shape the future of advertising, but at that time the airlines and inflight entertainment vendors were unable to provide a platform that really considered the advertisers’ needs.

Airline media sales teams have proved themselves in generating revenue in spite of not being given the tools that allow them to compete in an increasingly digital advertising marketplace.  Unlocking the full potential of passenger engagement inflight will require the same digital tools advertisers are given on the ground – those that allow for more efficient and accountable media investment – data driven targeting, measurement and reporting.

Based on that insight, and after gathering enough digital experience working for some well-known international publishers outside of aviation and a mobile network operator, myself and two like-minded colleagues decided it was time to venture out on our own.

We worked with aviation partners, as media industry experts and consultants, to create strategies based on media-industry insight, to build fit-for-purpose advertising solutions.

For us, it was clear from the start. Accessing the fastest growing marketplace where most of the digital media trading was done would be the optimal way to support and complement direct sponsorship deals. Programmatic would play a key role in inflight advertising monetisation.

This would require engineering investment and a long arduous journey in connecting this valuable, yet different, advertising inventory into a market that has well established workflows, standards and formats.

So, we formed Inadvia.

We became partner-agnostic, allowing us to work across the entire industry armed with the confidence from the demand side that using established digital workflows would lower the barrier to entry for advertisers to invest in the channel.

With another cofounder with specific product and technical experience to plug our gaps in experience and knowledge onboard we set about building Inadvia based on two core principles:

  • Inflight advertising has the ability to deliver significant value to aviation if it embraces the workflows and standards of a rapidly dynamic advertising marketplace
  • The right technology can change the way advertising is traded, packaged, delivered and measured to access a massive market of demand.

Doing so would allow the airlines and inflight entertainment vendors to benefit and deliver, at last, on the promise of advertising as a significant ancillary revenue source. It would reduce the cost of sales and increase both yield and sell-through of the increasing advertising inventory that the existing embedded seatback systems, onboard connectivity and the emerging BYOD streaming platforms will create in the coming years.

It has not been an easy journey so far; these two industries move at a very different pace. However, what is clear is that the opportunity to deliver for the aviation sector is more important than ever and there is an increased urgency and focus to do so. The next few years are going to be challenging, but with (1) the right tools in place, (2) an acknowledgement that advertising will not change for the aviation market and (3) the post-Covid-19 accelerated digital transformation of the cabin, inflight advertising is set to play an important role in the recovery of the airline industry.

Everyone wins: increased revenues to airlines, more relevant advertising for passengers, and better targeted and measured campaigns for marketers.

This is a rapidly changing marketplace with increased pressures on airlines to adapt through digital transformation. For that reason, what I had previously thought we’d achieve in the next 20 years in inflight advertising, I actually think we will squeeze into five.


This article  was originally published on LinkedIn here