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What's the best way to reach frequent flyers on the go looking to spend money? For Continental Airlines, the answer was mobile banner ads. Over the summer, Continental ran sent banner ads to the mobile phones of consumers with household incomes over $100,000 that had traveled in the last three months.

According to MediaPost, the campaign increased awareness about Continental ads by 60%. Beyond the fact that consumers appear to be looking at banner ads in mobile, this campaign touches on the issue of mobile preparedness for brands. 

As consumers become more dependant on their phones for transactions and information, they'll also start spending more money there. And campaigns like this show that brands equipped to handle the mobile shift will bring in increased revenue.

Especially in tight times, encouraging frequent travel is a win for airlines. Continental worked with mobile search and advertising company JumpTap and Worldwide to develop the campaign to promote its new reduced fares.

The mobile ads encouraged viewers to use Continental's mobile site for all of their air travel needs. They geotargeted New York City mobile users and were placed on MSNBC, NBA, NBC Sports and NBC Local Integrated Media.

With tags like "Fares from $39 each way" and "Make continental.com your one-stop travel center," the company wanted to generate brand awareness and drive traffic to the Continental.com. According to JumpTap, they succeeded.

Jumptap hosted an Insight Express brand study for Continental to measure user perception and awareness of the Continental brand in mobile, and to measure user purchase intent on the mobile Internet. The study found the campaign was successful at driving increases across all brand metrics — including web site awareness, which was up 15.4%; overall purchase intent, up 22.3%; and mobile purchase intent, which rose 22.2%.

Paran Johar, CMO of Jumptap, tells Marketing Daily:

“Mobile is an ideal channel as frequent travelers are heavy consumers of mobile search, shopping  and travel purchases. As new mobile applications are launched on user-friendly platforms like the iPhone and BlackBerry, the travel industry has leveraged information distribution, travel alerts, destination guides and even mobile booking capabilities."

Mobile advertising has been helped recently by growing smartphone sales, which have led to increased traffic on the mobile web and the explosion of mobile apps. Google’s recent $750 million acquisition of AdMob has refocused energy in the space, bringing other big players like Yahoo looking for a foothold, while Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey has proven interest in making mobile payments a more convenient reality with his new startup Square.

Forrester predicts that U.S. mobile advertising will jump from $391 million this year to $561 million in 2010 and hit $1.3 billion by 2014. That will still be a tiny fraction of the $55 billion overall digital spend predicted by 2014 by Forrester projects. But technological advances this year have shown how much more useful the mobile space can be for brands. 

This campaign in particular takes advantage of the increased transactions that are possible on phones that can both surf the web and make payments.

As consumers become more interested in accomplishing life tasks wherever they go, mobile will become a must-have space for brands competing on tight margins. In a space like air travel, where convenience and price are at a premium for frequent travelers, cornering mobile could be a huge win for airlines. 

Says Johar:

“Airlines simply want to sell the right seat to the right passenger at the right time at the right price.  What better medium [is there] than mobile to accomplish this objective?”

Meghan Keane

Published 8 December, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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