On Ryanair flights, travellers can now see ads for Meteor, an Irish mobile company, Red Bull or ING, depending on destination.The Irish ad agency involved, Fourth Estate, even claims to have developed a patented system for framing the ads.
Obviously, we must all salute the enterprise involved in dreaming up a fresh place to stick ads. But, before hailing the birth of a medium, detailed effectiveness studies will be required. How long do passengers stare at the door of a luggage rack? They may be a captive audience, but are they in the right mind to absorb commercial messages, or are passengers too preoccupied with the danger of luggage falling on their heads to take it in?
The medium may take a while to catch on, if one of the greatest mediums of the past 20 years - ads on the back of toilet doors and above urinals - are anything to go by. As is the case for Ryanair, there is a captive audience, but unlike aircraft lockers, accurately positioned ads command near-absolute attention for a quantifiable period of time, although admittedly the latter can vary.
Toilet-door advertising clearly has a vibrant future in the age of engagement, yet for some unaccountable reason, it has been slow to make the big breakthrough.
Hard on the heels of luggage lockers comes yet another fresh advertising medium, transactional promotion, or Transpromo for short. This is a digital printing technique that allows colour ads to become an integral part of bank statements or utility bills in a cost-effective way for the first time. Ads inserted in the envelope with the bill tend to get ignored.
This is another captive audience, but thought has to be given to whether bills offer a congenial selling environment.
Such ads already occur in Japan and Transpromo is about to land on the doormats of the UK. There have been reports of banks, telecom operators and utility companies in the UK getting close to pressing the button.
But what are we going to call these developments and how are their revenues to be assigned? Some are outdoor, while others are more properly out-of-home. Utility-bill advertising has to be judged as a variant of direct mail, although, again, the common theme is the captive audience.
Meanwhile, mainstream outdoor advertising is performing pretty well - certainly when compared with the rest of traditional media.
The latest Advertising Association figures for the first quarter of 2007, out this week, show a 7.7% rise to £237m. That may not seem dramatic, but it is a lot better than print, down 3.3%, or TV, doing less badly than last year, down a mere 0.8%. With the exception of internet, only cinema - another captive audience - has done better, with a 9.9% rise.
The whopping 42% lift for internet is an estimate and carries the caveat that actual results are 'currently unavailable' - an interesting performance indicator in itself.
Outdoor should be doing better than it is, though. A recent MediaTel seminar on the industry left a number of abiding impressions: a note of smugness, complacency and widespread caution about investing in digital, clearly the future, for short-term ROI reasons.
There is also a sense of separation, as if the practitioners are not wholly part of the rest of the advertising and marketing industry.
Never mind, at least they can look forward to a boost from ads on luggage lockers, toilet doors and utility bills.
30 SECONDS ON... RYANAIR
- Europe's biggest low-cost airline, Ryanair operates 499 routes to 25 countries. According to the carrier, it will carry 52m passengers this year.
- The airline was founded in 1985; its sole service was from Waterford in South-East Ireland to London's Gatwick Airport. In 1986 a second route was added from Dublin to London Luton Airport; 82,000 passengers were carried that year.
- In 2000, Ryanair launched its website. Within a year, 75% of its bookings were being made online.
- This month Ryanair announced that digital entertainment company Creative is to run a pan-European print ad campaign on the seat-back tray-tables of five aircraft.
- Irish mobile operator Meteor will advertise on its overhead lockers for flights out of Ireland from June to August. Red Bull ads run on Ryanair's UK-based aircraft and ING on its Belgian fleet.