Personalized airline magazine grabs readers’ attention

The passengers of a TAM airline flight from Milan to Sao Paulo were in for a surprise. On each seat, there was an onboard magazine featuring a picture of the passenger assigned to the specific seat on the cover. The content was personalized with articles about each passenger’s hobbies, favorite destinations and friends – made possible with the help of Facebook.

The passengers of a TAM airline flight from Milan to Sao Paulo were in for a surprise. On each seat, there was an onboard magazine featuring a picture of the passenger assigned to the specific seat on the cover. The content was personalized with articles about each passenger’s hobbies, favorite destinations and friends. With this new way of including content relevant to each reader, TAM achieved what most airlines only dream of: The onboard magazine was read cover to cover – the average reading time during the flight increased by 1,200 % and 100 % of the passengers decided to take the magazine with them after the flight.

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Airline magazines are usually not considered the hottest print products. The Brazilian airline TAM found, for example, that less than 11 % of their passenger remembered what they read in the onboard magazines during a flight. And passengers spent less than 3 % of their inflight time reading the magazine. The numbers were not satisfactory and that is why TAM tried a radically different approach.

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To realize the project, TAM collaborated with the advertising agency FCB Milan. While a personalized magazine would not have been an option a decade ago because there would not have been enough information on all the passengers available, it was now made possible with the help of Facebook. TAM integrated Facebook Connect during the ticket purchasing process and was able to learn more about each passenger’s preferences, favorite restaurants and destinations, and gained access to photos, facts and news relevant to each person. Stories in the magazine featured, for example, events on the day the passenger was born or printed text in their favorite color. The customized onboard magazine was called “OwnBoard” magazine. The intent was to make each customer feel special and show them how much the airline cared about them.

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While the magazine clearly increased passenger engagement, it seems like a great amount of effort went into the creation of customized content. It is probably not viable to do this on every flight, nor is the effort scalable to include other airlines. Depending on the age, geographic region and personal privacy preferences, there could also be some reluctance to share personal information with an airline. However, TAM’s OwnBoard magazine showed that the intelligent integration of print and social media as well as personalized digital printing techniques can vitalize a print product that has been receiving only marginal attention and make it interesting again. And TAM and FCB Milan not only attracted attention but were also rewarded with a Bronze Lion in Cannes.