August 14th, 2007

Ad Biz Leaves No Tray Unturned

By Lewis Lazare
Chicago Sun-Times

What'll they think of next: Seeking every possible spot to sell you something, advertisers are now along for the flight

It’s become a much-debated topic: the intrusion of advertising into seemingly every nook and cranny where advertisers could cut a deal to place it. With money to be made from displaying advertising, places that never before seemed a likely locale for advertising now have it—like it or not.

One of newest places where ads are starting to turn up is airplane tray tables. It’s not hard to see why advertisers covet such placements. Airline passengers are a captive audience—more so than ever lately, because of ghastly delays that have trapped travelers for hours. So advertisers presume passengers will have longer exposure to their ads on a tray table than they would flipping through a magazine or TiVo-ing on television.

The tray table ad phenomenon hasn’t become widespread yet, perhaps because some carriers are fearful of passenger backlash on top of all the other reasons to be upset about the state of air travel. But USAirways, for one, has decided to try tray table advertising. This month and next, when passengers on USAir planes lower their tables, they will find one of three ads from JWT/Detroit for the Ford Taurus. There are three executions for a reason—planes with three seats on either side of the center aisle will have a different execution on each of the three tray tables.

JWT, at least, has tried to make passengers smile or help them pass the time in each of the new ads. We especially liked one that amusingly uses an image of the familiar airline plastic cup to tie in with a message about the Taurus’ safety features. Another execution gives passengers the chance to take a quiz.

The executives behind this Taurus tray table ad venture insist it is all about enhancing the travel experience. That is pure marketing-speak, to be taken with a grain of salt. Let’s leave it to passengers to decide how much this kind of advertising really enhances their travels. See you on board.

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