It's A Bird? It's A Plane? It's An Ad!

by , Jun 29, 2001, 12:00 AM
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A new advertising format debuts July 1 in the air.

On JetBlue Airways, specifically, which will show the ads on its in-flight Live TV system. The system, operational on all JetBlue flights, provides cable programming from DirectTV to every passenger. The TVs play on flat screen monitors installed in seatbacks operated by remote control.

The ads Live TV (ifetv.com) is selling don't appear on the traditional cable channels from DirecTV, such as ESPN and CNN Headline News. They appear on Live TV's Map channel, which provides flight information, such as altitude and arrival times. Full screen ads will appear when the Map channel is turned on and off.

Live TV calls itself the "only real-time, at-home entertainment experience in the air," different from any other entertainment options airline passengers have. The idea derives from the first President Bush who missed important news flying on Air Force One during the Gulf War and wished he had in-flight access to CNN. "He said we need a way to put TV on Air Force 1 and we patented the idea," says Albert Crane, VP of advertising sales for Live TV, Melbourne, FL, a joint venture between Sextant In-Flight Systems and Harris Corp.

The first Live TV advertisers are The Wall St. Journal and Barron's magazine, Dow Jones & Co. publications that are clients of Lawrence Butner Advertising in New York. "We're a direct response agency and we're always interested in testing new formats," says director of media services Tony Cerrato. The company creates subscription solicitations for the publications, which usually run in print and direct mail. The Live TV ads will be solicitations, too, with a toll-free number used. The ads for the two publications will rotate, he says.

Live TV will sell the ads on a CPM basis with the basic price of $15, according to Crane, with discounts for larger buys.

JetBlue pays Live TV $1 a seat, which is less than the cost of a meal, Crane says. Passengers get it for free. Originally there was a plan to charge customers and credit card devices were installed in the seats. Those could be used by advertisers to make transactions, Cerrato says, hoping someday passengers will be able to subscribe to his publications in flight.

Live TV is currently only available on JetBlue Airways, but plans to be available on Alaska Airlines soon.

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