Ever wondered how to best prepare fried spider? Have you ever heard of the art of Japanese candy sculpture? Or how the underground casinos of New York City operate? While these might seem interesting, if somewhat obscure topics, they’re just a few examples of the unique inflight entertainment (IFE) content airlines are offering in efforts to hit passenger experience out of the park.
Inflight video content is exploding, with passengers now having greater access to the same movies, TV shows and media brands they enjoy watching at home. And now that services like Netflix are offering offline viewing, people take their favorite shows with them everywhere. Airlines are using this as an opportunity to partner with content providers to offer original programming to strengthen and differentiate their brands.
Here are three examples of branded content initiatives from Japan’s All Nippon Airways, Air Canadaand Spafax that illustrate just that. They all help set airline brands apart, each in very different, highly effective ways.
Discovering Japan with ‘Ichigo Ichie’
All Nippon Airways (ANA) is Japan’s largest airline, and its current challenge is to attract more, and younger, travelers from Europe. So ANA partnered with CNN’s new digital video network, Great Big Story, to develop an original short-form video series entitled Ichigo Ichie — “One Opportunity, One Encounter” in Japanese — to showcase the food and culture of Japan. It includes topics like the art of growing the perfect wasabi plant, and is available inflight or on the Great Big Story mobile app.
“Rather than a traditional brand campaign, ANA wants to inspire people to fly ANA and explore the Japanese culture through the lens of food and hospitality,” says Owen Wyatt, who heads up U.K. ad sales at CNN International Commercial.
ANA also strives to reach a younger demographic that consumes content via mobile and social media platforms like YouTube, Vimeo and Great Big Story.
“Our content is focused on giving viewers that ‘wow’ factor,” says Courtney Coupe, executive producer at Great Big Story, “and Japan is a place we knew had incredible stories waiting to be told. Ichigo Ichie was the perfect theme to tie this partnership together, the goal being to pique the curiosity of a younger demographic in connection with the ANA brand.”
Director of commercial distribution at CNN Commercial International, Rachel Peterson, adds that this millennial audience is increasingly interested in “bite-size” content exemplified by Ichigo Ichie. This short-form strategy to reach a targeted demographic illustrates how airlines and content partners are likely to accelerate innovation and experimentation in the upcoming years.
“CNN content is becoming available across all platforms, from hotel homepages to livestreaming on airlines through our partnership with Panasonic,” she says. “And in the future, we might even launch a dedicated Great Big Story channel featuring a partner airline like ANA.”
Air Canada’s Inflight Film Festival
Outside of being the largest airline in Canada, Air Canada is a global ambassador for the country itself. That’s why it developed the enRoute Film Festival, the first and only of its kind. The festival rotates selected films throughout the year on its inflight channel.
“Canadian content is at the center of our strategy because, as a Canadian airline, we carry the flag on our tail,” says Eric Lauzon, Air Canada’s manager of multimedia entertainment.
“Which is why we came up with enRoute Film Festival. It provides the opportunity for not just Canadians, but for an international audience, to gain exposure to young Canadian filmmakers. At the end of the year, our jury of directors, producers and actors select the top 20 films,” explains Lauzon.
Air Canada sees the film festival’s success as a future bridge to connect with more international passengers and audiences, in their own languages.
“We’re growing as an international carrier,” explains Lauzon, “so it’s important to offer enRoute content in multiple languages. The same goes for our IFE navigation interface. For our next-generation system, we’re targeting English and French, plus 12 or 13 other languages.”
Air Canada plans to augment its inflight enRoute offering with third-party content partners, with an eye towards streaming to its passengers’ own personal electronic devices.
“The enRoute Film Festival is something we’re very proud of and want to grow, but we also want to partner with content creators. As IFE systems become more connected, it opens airlines up to partner with streaming services like Netflix, Spotify and Amazon Prime,” Lauzon says.
Reaching Millennials with VICELAND
Spafax is one of the leading IFE content providers to airlines, and a big part of what it does is hunt down great programming for aviation brands.
That’s what made its recently announced partnership with VICE, one of the most recognizable media brands amongst millennials, a relative no-brainer. Spafax will now be able to bring content from VICELAND, VICE’s 24-hour TV channel, to clients like British Airways, Lufthansa and Delta. VICELAND is characterized by “edgy” journalism such as its Black Market series in which host Michael K. Williams meets and follows bands of illegal elephant poachers in South Africa.
“We select content from VICELAND that’s appropriate to each airline’s brand,” says Emma Gunn, senior manager of Content Acquisition at Spafax. “As VICE Media’s network expands across territories, local productions will become available to airlines to help further distinguish their IFE offerings.”
So not only will airlines set their brands apart just by having VICELAND content, they’ll be able to even further localize content depending on regions, routes and markets.
“Partnering with brands like VICE enables airlines to form powerful bonds with all audiences,” continues Gunn, “especially the elusive millennials who expect to see brands and content they know on every platform including IFE video, audio, lounge TV networks, the airline website and app.”
“As digital makes a crossover into mainstream TV and traditional platforms, airlines will increasingly be seen as a perfect partner to present and promote new content from other networks and subscription services on the ground,” she continues.
VICELAND, Great Big Story and enRoute are just three examples of how airlines are pushing the IFEC envelope. In the future, airlines may utilize things like mobile content availability, language customization and partner-produced content to connect passengers with their brands before, during and after their flights — giving them the opportunity to expose their brands to both people in the air and those with their feet firmly planted on the ground.