United takes off with personalized ads on seatbacks and app

United takes off with personalized ads on seatbacks and app

United Airlines is taking its in-flight entertainment to new heights with the launch of Kinective Media, a platform that personalizes ads for passengers based on their travel habits. “We’ve built a first-of-its-kind, real-time, adtech-enabled traveler media network where brands have already started connecting to premium audiences at an unmatched scale,” said Richard Nunn, CEO of MileagePlus, which will house the ad business.

Privacy controls and targeted approach

Passengers flipping through movies on United’s seatback screens will now encounter occasional targeted ads alongside their entertainment options. Additionally, a 30-second pre-roll ad will play before each chosen program. This personalization hinges on data points like a passenger’s origin and destination city, age group, and cabin class. United, which flew 165 million passengers last year, has nearly 100,000 seatback screens across its fleet, with plans to grow these numbers as the airline takes delivery of new airplanes and retrofits existing aircraft as part of its United Next plan.

Beyond In-Flight Entertainment

United’s foray into personalized ads extends beyond in-flight entertainment. The airline’s mobile app, used for booking and check-in, also leverages location data (with user consent) to serve targeted ads from retailers with stores in the passenger’s vicinity. United has the world’s most downloaded airline mobile app, with 110+ million total downloads across IOS & Android and nearly 100 million sessions per month. Macy’s, IHG Hotels (parent company of Holiday Inn), TelevisaUnivision, Norwegian Cruise Line, Chase co-branded credit cards, and major ad agencies like Dentsu are among the brands participating in the initial rollout. These brands can also utilize United’s data to target ads across other websites.

Global Expansion on the Horizon

Currently limited to U.S. departures, Kinective Media has plans to expand its reach to international flights and integrate with third-party websites. While United declined to disclose projected sales figures, the airline emphasizes that customer privacy remains a priority. Passengers can opt out of targeted advertising, and advertisers cannot access personally identifiable information. United boasts an average flight time of 3.5 hours, United said, highlighting the potential captive audience for in-flight ads.

As United undergoes a cabin upgrade program, including a revamp of its in-flight entertainment system with new screens, Kinective Media positions itself to become a key revenue driver for the airline. Kinective Media plans a formal commercial launch at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

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