New front in the advertising war

tray ad

Another reason to hate flying

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse! The folks at America West airlines and SkyMedia International have cooked up a scheme to put advertising on your tray table.

Air travelers already have to endure indignity and discomfort aplenty: long lines at check-in counters, long-lines at security checkpoints, x-raying and inspection of personal belongings, being forced to empty pockets and remove shoes at security checkpoints, having to submit to search of one's person, an incomprehensible system of fares — all of this before you even get on the aircraft.

It doesn't get any better on board. There, most travelers are shoe-horned into a seat that is much too narrow for comfort and forced to share at least one armrest with the person next to you, essentially pinning your elbows at your sides for the duration of the flight. Unless you are quite short, the seat back in front of you will probably touch your knees even when the seatback is in the fully upright position; when the person reclines your knees will get a good knocking if you're not alert.

sample ad on tray table

And now a new front has been opened in the campaign to cover every surface everywhere with advertising. Beginning 15 December, passengers on America West planes will see advertising covering their tray table. Of course they tell us it is for our benefit, just like all the lines and hassles are for our security.

• The tray table ads will give passengers "a novel opportunity to learn about the products and services offered by quality, forward-thinking advertisers," says Ken Feldman, Vice President of Marketing for America West.

• The ads "will be a 'win-win-win' proposition for America West, its customers and our advertisers," claims Laurence Hallier, chairman of SkyMedia. SkyMedia claims that "with an average domestic flight time of two hours, there is no better medium for reaching affluent business and leisure travelers."

Gimme a break. Who do they think they're kidding? I do not get on an airplane because I want an education; I do it because I want to get quickly from one place to another. Staring at an ad for Mercedes-Benz (one of the first three advertisers in the program) while drinking an over-priced cocktail or trying to eat a tasteless airline meal with plastic utensils is not going to make me want to run right out and buy a Benz when I get off the plane. If anything it will just associate Mercedes-Benz in my mind with the discomfort and annoyance of air travel. In short, it is apt to just make me even more surly and disgruntled. Perhaps some people do, but I tend not to buy things that make me surly and disgruntled.

Advertisers are running the risk of provoking a backlash, just the way telemarketers did.

sample ad for tray table

Perhaps it's time to organize a new public interest group; something along the lines of Citizens for an Ad-Free Environment. Hey, that makes a nice acronym: CAFE. I imagine there to be a large number of people who are fed up with ads everywhere.

Everybody wants to advertise at me. I suppose it's too much to expect that companies will catch on to the idea that the way to get and keep customers is to provide good products and good service at a reasonable price.

Moral: Keep those trays in the upright and locked position!