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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What's Up in Albania

If you are interested in reading about how tourism is developing in Albania, please check out my article at National Geographic Traveler's blog. The address is www.intelligenttravel.typepad.com. The entry was posted July 16, 2008.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Boarding Pass or Billboard?

Can a boarding pass be a billboard? Apparently, it is so, according to cash-starved airline executives. You have gotta love the creative twists and turns airline executives are taking as they scheme up new ways to make money. The latest twist in the revenue ramp-up is the addition of ads on the boarding passes that passengers print up at home. That's right--valuable printer ink will now get consumed publishing advertising for the airlines.

Of course, the airlines would have us believe that new policy is merely a service for passengers. For the boarding pass that's printed will be highlighted with targeted ads, coupons, and shopping and dining recommendations based on where passengers are going. People can opt out of printing the ads. On the other hand, they can also choose to provide the participating airlines (Continental, Delta, Northwest, United and US Airways) with a host of information in order to get ads that are specially personalized. Of course, this option is also likely to get people bombarded with unwelcome e-mail blasts as well.

The five participating airlines have minority stakes in Sojern, the Nebraska-based start-up that's behind this venture. While revenues will be split among the concerned parties, the potential size of the purse is unknown. Sojern figures 40 percent of 700 million annual flight check-ins are conducted online, leading to 280 million blank billboards. Methinks Sojern overestimates that percentage, and neglects to take into account those who will opt out of the game. Time will tell if this commercial scheme goes the way of advertising on airsickness bags.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Mr. Bill: Priceless

Apropos of nothing, kudos to MasterCard for bringing back Mr. Bill. Oh no, I'm showing my age, but Mr. Bill was one of my favorite Saturday Night Live bits way back when. For those who don't remember Mr. Bill, he was a little clay figure who was regularly subjected to humiliation, torture and angst at the hands of Mr. Hand. As he gamely endured his trials and tribulations, he would wail "Oh, noooooooooooo" in falsetto exclamation.

It's interesting that MasterCard has chosen to revive Mr. Bill for this summer's version of its "Priceless" ad campaign. After all, Mr. Bill's catchphrase seems to be a mantra for this year of economic woes. What current day consumer can't relate when Mr. Bill is scalded by hot coffee ("coffee-$2")*; hit by a briefcase ("briefcase-$120); and sent out an office window to find himself splat on a windshield of a city bus. Just as Mr. Bill comments, "Hey, the bus is right on schedule," the windshield wipers go into gear. Oh, noooo. Still, for Mr. Bill, what's priceless is making it through the day.

I wonder if MasterCard first pondered a Mr. Bill scenario where he's going to take a flight. After all, doesn't every airline traveler feel a bit like Mr. Bill these days, with the airlines playing the role of Mr. Hand? Baggage check--$25. Fuel surcharge--$50. Bottled water on the plane--$2. Finally, getting to your destination with your sanity intact--priceless.

To watch this priceless ad, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxMqDxtjw1U

*Two dollars? Clearly, Mr. Hand is not getting his caffeine fix at Starbucks.