CANNES — A new type of advertising is taking flight, after United Airlines announced it was bringing personalized ads to its new media platform, and specifically to personal devices onboard via a partnership with Magnite.

It is one of the first instances of “commerce media” interacting with digital ads in the travel environment. For now, United’s Kinective Media is focusing on its own ad sales, but the partnership opens up a host of new possibilities, including programmatic.

“It is a monumental win for us,” says Mike Laband, SVP Platform Revenue, Magnite, whose SpringServe ad server will power the ads. “We think it’s a major opportunity to look at new ways to bring advertising and new formats to users and United in their airplanes.”

Similarities to At-Home Viewing

There are many similarities between the in-flight viewing experience and watching TV at home. On a plane, people tend to have a heightened sense of the content they are watching, Laband says.

“There’s a lot of ways you can think about where it’s very similar to a lean back experience when you’re at home and finding that you’re less distracted in that airplane versus when at home you have more of that second screen around you, which can be generally a little more distracting,” he says.

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Phased Evolution

United is starting with enabling ads on the smartphones and tablets passengers bring on-board and connect to in-flight WiFi.

But the airline also has seatback screens on many aircraft. “United has many screens … there’ll be an evolution of taking all of those different types of screens, bringing them to a market to enable them for monetization,” Laband says.

That is just the first phase. Later, United hopes to introduce programmatic ad-buying to the mix, allowing advertisers and agencies to target audiences more precisely. “That’s a little more distant, but right now it’s all about how can we serve into these available screens today, both on and off airplanes,” Laband adds.

Exciting Advertisers

Advertisers and their agencies are enthusiastic about the possibilities, according to Laband. United is starting with close brand partners.

“United specifically is going out with their close partners that they work with today and being able to say, here’s a new way for you to interact with our partnership and bringing it onto on airplanes and off of airplanes as well,” he says. “We’ve had a lot of inbound and there’s a lot of excitement about, there’s a new way to interact.”

United plans to extend ad-supported in-flight entertainment across its fleet over time. “They’re really looking at their beta advertisers that are live today and looking at where they can take this over time and really bringing it across their fleet of airplanes and also their different types of screens,” Laband adds.

“So we’re certainly really excited. It’s a very big opportunity for both sides and I think a real game changer for the industry.”