TransPromo in the Air

By | August 12, 2008

As InfoTrends’ TransPromo Summit nears, I thought I would cover an interesting application of TransPromo, and pose some thoughts and questions about TransPromo implementation. Last month, AdAge had a feature about a start-up advertising and marketing technology company called Sojern (full article available here). Sojern plays in the airline industry space, which has been hurting lately due to rising costs that have directly affected fliers in many ways. Most would think that many companies would be shying away from the airline market until conditions improve.

However, Sojern has taken a novel approach to marketing to airline industry consumers through the use of TransPromo, but not necessarily in the same way we often talk about TransPromo. This application isn’t a newly redesigned statement or bill, and it doesn’t require an Automated Document Factory to produce. Instead, Sojern is implementing targeted, customizable advertising on the printed boarding passes for major airlines including Delta (the first to launch the implementation), American, Continental, Northwest, United and US Airways. These boarding passes are printed by consumers on their desktop printers just as they normally are, and the ads are formatted to aesthetically please both on the Web and in print. The consumer can also turn off the ads if they so choose, and will be able to further-customize their experience in the future.

I got to experience Sojern at work first-hand when my friend was printing out his boarding passes for a Delta flight to Tampa, Florida a few days ago. The boarding pass included a 5-day weather outlook for the Tampa area with three different “Destination Highlights” underneath each day. Surrounding the weather and Destination Highlights were regular Web-based advertisements. Some ads were nationwide advertisements from bookstore chains and event ticket resellers, while others were targeted to the destination, including nature parks and botanical gardens located near Tampa. All of them printed out clearly on the monochrome laser printer at home, and would probably look even better in color.

This type of application is effective on a number of different levels. There is information included other than solid advertisements within the boarding pass (in this case, weather), which adds some value to the pass other than just being a new advertising platform. More importantly, because passengers cannot print their boarding passes until 24-36 hours before their flight, information like weather is very timely and therefore more relevant to the passenger. Targeting based on destination also adds value to the boarding pass, especially as smaller, more localized advertisers take advantage of Sojern’s services. This delivery model requires no investment in print technology at all, other than making sure the page looks right when printed on a home computer (usually done through a stylesheet). Sojern also says that it has developed tools for advertisers to track online views, print impressions, and ad clickthroughs to determine the effectiveness of a campaign.

Giving control to the user to turn on or off the advertising is also an important factor in Sojern’s application, as consumers are consistently wary about the use of personal information for targeted advertising. On the same token, consumers who find Sojern’s technology valuable will soon be able to customize what type of content they receive on their boarding passes (another value-add). An implementation like Sojern’s for airlines could also be implemented for tickets to sporting events and concerts that are printed online (in fact, this may already be the case), as well as other forms of online transactions.

This brings me to my final thoughts and questions: where will real TransPromo innovation and implementation come from? Will it come from transactional statement printers who are starting to offer TransPromo as an option to more and more clients? Will it come from the marketing or design departments of corporations who want to revamp and add value to their statements? Will it come from the solution developers/vendors who enable companies to design and execute TransPromo statements? Or will it come from start-ups like Sojern who offer a whole new approach to TransPromo? Tell me what you think.

Bryan Yeager is a Senior Research Analyst in the Production Workflow and Customized Communications Services group at InfoTrends. He can be reached at

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