THE company behind Ryanair's decision to offer the outside of its planes as an advertising medium believes it could add GBP10 million to the airline's top line in the first year of the scheme.

Edinburgh's Inflight Media has been formed specifically for the purpose of selling the advertising world's newest vehicle. Inflight is headed by founder Stephen Kiggins.

"I see no reason why we should not have 50 planes done in a year's time, " says Kiggins. If he meets that target, Kiggins will have made the airline that GBP10m in sales, spread over the two-year minimum contract period stipulated by Ryanair.

Its decision to use its planes as an advertising medium is an almost untested innovation in the airline industry. Ryanair tried branding four planes as an experiment 10 years ago, but now that those planes are facing decommissioning in January it wants to try a more systematic approach with the 140 new planes that Boeing will deliver in the next 18 months.

It is Kiggins's job to convince Europe's most famous brands that a flying advert is good value at a cost of GBP295,000 over two years. "I think if you look at the cost of a television advertising spot during Coronation Street or a 92-sheet poster in one of the prime slots in London it is very good value, "says Kiggins.

The rate card cost is GBP105,000 per year. The cost of actually painting the plane is, on average, GBP85,000 and advertisers must commit to the twoyear contract period.

"It is time consuming and the plane must be taken out of its schedule to be painted, " says Kiggins. "The cost of painting depends very much on what is being done and how complicated it is, which is why we strip that out as a standalone cost."

Kiggins has worked with Ryanair for many years and founded Applecroft, a design agency that covered unusual surfaces in branding for the Irish carrier. "We used to do Stansted Airport, where the whole terminal was covered in Ryanair branding, all round the main hall, " says Kiggins.

He sold his share in Applecroft to the other founders a year ago in order to spend time with his young family, and had been looking for a new project.

"This came out of discussions I had with Ryanair, it was something we talked about and I thought this was a good idea."

To find customers, Kiggins dug out Interbrand's top 100 brands list. "That is my market, those companies, " he says. The medium is only good for branding exercises, rather than product specific ones, because it will remain unchanged for two years.

"We will be looking for brands that are pan-European or global, which operate in the areas that Ryanair flies to, " adds Kiggins.

So who will advertise? "I think the big banking brands who are consolidating under single brands will be keen, and drinks companies like Diageo, which has Johnnie Walker and Guinness, brands that are the same all over Europe."

Kiggins will approach Ikea, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Red Bull in the coming weeks with tailored presentations, including a simulated video of a flying plane which is covered in that company's logo and colours. "I think there is also an emotive element, of people going: I want a plane in my company's colours. There is also huge kudos and lots of press coverage for whoever goes first.

"Each plane does eight flights in a day, that is eight cities you are seen in, " says Kiggins. "It is advertising that you interact with, you are actually getting into the plane that is covered in that branding, you are involved with it. And there are some firms, like Ikea, whose corporate ethos fits with Ryanair's no-frills approach."

The medium faces two key problems, though. The first is that Ryanair is not a company consumers particularly like, even if they use its services frequently. Will companies whose brands are their main asset want to associate themselves with that sentiment?

"I don't think we're going to see Versace or Louis Vuitton signing up but I think bluechip companies will recognise the value of this and the exposure to market that they are targeting, " says Kiggins.

The second problem he could face is that advertisers whose branding is already painted on a plane are unlikely to renew a contract after two years if they believe that the painting will remain on the plane anyway. This over-run is evident in the four planes Ryanair branded in 1995. They all still carry the original ads.

"That is a problem and it will have to be looked at, " says Kiggins, though there are no plans in place to fix the problem. "It devalues the advertising. I think, though, that with these new planes Ryanair might think of its own livery painting as a deferred cost, so that it will paint over the advertising in two years' time rather than on to an empty plane now."

The new medium is being well received in advertising circles. Gerry Farrell, creative director of The Leith Agency, says: "I think it is a great medium, highly visible. There are some brands it would work very well for: Sky, for example. Or a cigar company could use the shape and paint it like a cigar. Tampax could use the shape as well, or even Ann Summers.

"I think it is good value, " said Farrell, who does not see the over-run problem as a serious one. "I think at this level people do things properly. You are not going to get the kind of company who will do this try to get something for nothing, saying 'if we buy two years we might get 10'."

Alastair Chisholm, creative director of the Avian agency, agrees that the venture is likely to be a success. "If you think of the people it is aimed at, it is a trapped audience, " he says.

"It would need to be a very big brand, a new product message would be too complicated."

Chisholm believes that the cost is reasonable, as long as the reason for advertising on planes is well thought out.

"That kind of money would, though, get you a month on TV, or a serious bus campaign or dominating 48-sheet posters, " says Chisholm. "It would be good value to the right advertiser."


Advertisers thought likely to want to take to the air include:

Red Bull: whose slogan is 'Red Bull gives you wings' and sponsor an aerobatics team (pictured)

Maltesers: whose slogan is 'the lighter way to enjoy chocolate'. The company already advertises Mars Bars inside Ryanair planes

Sky: an obvious choice

Cigar companies, Tampax and Ann Summers: could all take advantage of the plane's tube shape (ideas supplied by Kiggins, Leith's Farrell and Avian's Chisholm)