Inadvia’s Mathew Blay leads panel on the expansion of D2C advertising into the IFE space


APEX TECH 2023: Day Two – Wrapping up the afternoon panel discussions yesterday, Inadvia Director, Mathew Blay and airline media sales vets Mary Rae Esposito, Director of Sales, North America, Spafax and Chris Demange, Director – Media & Partnerships, Viasat, pondered the question: Can ad-supported D2C IFE become a revenue generator for the airlines?   

Although Blay promised to take a deeper dive into the subject on day three of the TECH, judging from the raft of airline-centric questions yesterday – some of which were actually held for the next session due to time constraints – Blay and company were obviously onto something big. 

Opening, appropriately enough, with a call to action, Blay put the current state of in-flight advertising in perspective.

“In-flight movies have been around for 100 years and in-flight advertising has been a thing for like, 50 years or so,” said Blay. “And the autonomous car market has done more in developing ad tech in the last 10 years than we have as an industry in fifty. And the autonomous vehicle isn’t really a thing yet!”

“I think what we need to acknowledge is that we need to start thinking about the advertiser as the customer,” added Blay. “There’s so many of us here who have airlines as customers, you know, they’re the custodians of the budget, the guys paying us for services. But if we want to make a meaningful advertising revenue stream, we need to acknowledge that there is another customer here and that is the advertiser. The one with the money. So, I just want to sort of plant that seed and bear that in mind.”

Esposito and Demange seemed to agree, launching into a fascinating overview of the history of in-flight advertising, the longer lead time required for in-cabin ads versus terrestrial campaigns, the fact that airline media is rarely the first thing that comes to mind for many advertisers and the challenges involved in offering targeted advertising in-flight. 

The three panelists also noted that educating advertisers on the value of the audience and keeping things as easy and fluid as possible for advertisers, airlines and passengers alike is crucial — particularly at this stage of the game.

But at the end of the day, noted Esposito: “We have a captured audience. They’re in that seat. They’re watching the screens in front of them. Maybe they have another screen, you know, maybe they’re looking at the phone while the screen is on, but they’re seeing the ads, and it’s a safe environment, because that’s another thing we heard a lot about today, right? Where is your ad showing? So we have a lot of great things.”

Demange agreed, adding that: “It’s up to us to educate the market. It’s up to us to get the word out and … we feel very confident that when it’s established, it’s going to be something. But [right now] it’s kind of seeding the market, getting the experience out there and getting everyone to understand what the value propositions are.”