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United Airlines Looks to Monetize the Investment It Has Made in Tech With Highly Personalized Ads Delivered On Seatback Screens

United Airlines Looks to Monetize the Investment It Has Made in Tech With Highly Personalized Ads Delivered On Seatback Screens

rows of seats in an airplane

United Airlines has made a huge investment in customer-facing technology in recent years. It possesses the world’s most downloaded airline app, and unlike rivals like American Airlines, the Chicago-based carrier has committed to fitting out its aircraft fleet with seatback screens that boast impressive features like Bluetooth pairing for headphones.

The investment is part of United’s much-lauded NEXT project, designed to improve the customer experience and move the airline upmarket, winning United NEW customers and allowing the carrier to charge premium prices.

But now, it appears, it has come time for United to monetize this tech in its own right, and it’s going to be using the anonymized data of its passengers to do so by selling highly personalized advertising to ‘premium’ partners like Macy’s and Norwegian Cruise Line (if you consider these partners ‘premium’).

On Friday, United revealed that it has created its very own media network which will sell advertising across its website, mobile app and the 100,000 seatback screens that the airline boasts across its fleet.

What makes the network, dubbed Kinective Media, different, though, is the fact that United is gathering data on passenger behavior to create various anonymized audience segments so that advertisers can better target individual passengers.

For example, United says advertisers will be able to target passengers based on whether they are business or leisure travelers, families or solo travelers, travelers based on their origin or destinations, frequent travelers and even flyers who prefer the front or the back of the plane.

The idea is that United will be able to command higher prices to show advertising across its various channels because the ad that is shown is going to be much more targeted than traditional in-flight ads.

Additional data will also be available from MileagePlus members, which explains why Richard Nunn, CEO of the frequent flyer program had this to say about Kinective Media.

“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”.

“Unlike some commerce media platforms, United gives brands across a wide range of industries the ability to reach engaged customers throughout the entire marketing funnel – from brand consideration to conversion – in a way that’s highly personalized and relevant, and we’re already seeing impressive results.”

Nunn appears to have shoehorned as much advertising jargon into his comments as possible, although his broad point is that Kinective Media is using data to target engaged consumers with ads that are more likely to influence them to buy.

Highly personalized ads do, though, come with some concerns, and United has been quick to try to calm any Big Brother fears. The airline says advertisers will never be able to access the personally identifiable information of its customers, and aggregated and anonymized data will only be collected from passengers aged 18 and over.

Thankfully, United is also giving customers the ability to opt out of personalized ads at any time.

Matt’s take

In many ways, United is simply doing what many other companies already do. After all, we are bombarded with far more personalized ads when we use our smartphones or browse the web. Social media networks are experts at delivering these kinds of ads, and few people are up in arms over this.

It was, I suppose, just a matter of time before personalized ads came to the air travel experience. And seeing that United has been blazing quite the trail in investing in tech, it only seems fitting that United should be one of the first carriers to create a personalized media network.

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