The Age Of Media Networks

It's time to buy the friendly skies. At least that's what United Airlines wants planners and buyers to consider following Friday's launch of a new advertising network dubbed Kinective Media by United Airlines.

Clever branding for sure -- mashing up kinetic (which connotes bodies in motion) and connective (something all ad-supported media strive to be) -- but the real point of this column is the notion of an airline launching a new "media network."

Though United interchangeably refers to Kinective Media as a "platform" too, the network part comes amid the tsunami of new media networks being launched by every conceivable retail operators -- from conventional retailers who sell consumer packaged goods to ones who hold consumers captive in seats. In fact, Captivate might have been an even better brand for United's new ad networks, but that one was already taken by the elevator people.



The notion of ad networks has evolved rapidly over the years I've been covering media, from the original unwired networks pooling under-leveraged local radio and broadcast TV avails into national media buys -- optimized by Mike Kammerer's ITN (Independent Television Network) in the 1980s to the rise of online ad networks doing the same with unsold or under-leveraged digital advertising inventory in the early 2000s.

The funny thing is that retail media networks also have always existed, even if we didn't call them that, or think about them that way.

And while some media industry economists have recently been bucketing them into a new, burgeoning category of retail media ad spending near or above $100 billion already, those budgets are really just a reallocation of below-the-line promotional spending that has always existed by brands trying to get shelf space or mindshare of consumers when they were at their "moments of truth."

In fact, below-the-line consumer and trade promotion historically was greater than explicit ad spending, so the humongous budgets being tallied and touted today are just a case of moving marketing line items around on a ledger sheet.

That said, it nonetheless is the new gold rush of the ad industry as retailers -- both digital or brick and mortar, or even those in the friendly skies -- leverage what retail media networks always have: proximity to prospective or intended purchase decisions.

Not surprisingly, United's Kinective Media also is leveraging what all other ad networks do so well these days: proprietary consumer data.

It is "the first media network that uses insights from travel behaviors to connect customers to personalized, real-time advertising, content, experiences and offers from leading brands," United boasts as part of its announcement, citing data from:

  • The United Mobile App – 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.
  • Its MileagePlus frequent miles program.
  • Logged in user data from its in-flight entertainment system, including nearly 100,000 seat-back screens across its fleet.
"There is the potential for 3.5 hours of attention per traveler, based on average flight time," the airline notes.

"We've built a first-of-its-kind, real-time, adt-ech-enabled traveler media network where brands have already started connecting to premium audiences at an unmatched scale," boasts MileagePluse CEO Richard Nunn. "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. There has been a huge strategic shift within this high growth sector in the past five years where advertisers and brands have come together to determine how best to connect with consumers in a way that's valuable, effective and personalized."

With a pitch like that, it shouldn't be surprising that United has also lined up a bevy of launch partners including Norwegian Cruise Line, Macy's, Chase United Co-Brand Credit Cards, TelevisaUnivision, IHG Hotels & Resorts and Dentsu.

The official "commercial launch" is planned for next week at the Cannes Lions festival.

1 comment about "The Age Of Media Networks".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 10, 2024 at 1:06 p.m.

    Joe, the key distinction between these types of networks and TV networks is whether they can drive sufficient attention to their commercials to become branding as well as sales promotional venues. Having done consulting work for a fairly large crossection of what are sometimes referred to as place-based networks---all offering some sort of program content and ads----I have seen that , often, their ad attention rates are very low ---in some cases because their sound is muted; in others because consumers wont linger to watch the ads, and, often, because the program content is not exactly captivating. It may be that the United Airlines folks can find a way to engage their upscale audiences that the other networks have not been able to match---they certainly have their audiences in hand for a sustained period. In which case, given enough scale and a fair CPM---United may have a winner on its hands.

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