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Qantas takes digital media buying in-house, launches data marketing business Red Planet

RedPlanet QantasQantas Loyalty, the customer loyalty business of Australian airline Qantas, has today launched a data marketing business called Red Planet aiming to sign up other businesses to use data from the Frequent Flyer program in targeted digital advertising, Mumbrella’s Australia site has revealed.

Ominously for Qantas’ media agency Zenith Optimedia, the airline says it will move the group’s digital media spend – including its programmatic trading business – to Red Planet in the near future, with it already handling part of the spend for the group.

Led by Qantas veteran Vaughan Chandler the Red Planet team is made up of people from a media background, newly recruited to the company, and members of the Frequent Flyer analytics team who have moved across to the new business, which will also handle media buys for some clients. The new business will also handle programmatic work for clients, including the Qantas business. It is a move which Grace Liau, APAC general manager of Vivaki, which operates the agency trading desk Audience on Demand, has warned clients against, saying that advertisers need to be mindful that making the switch to could mean losing data.

The news of the switch comes the day after the head of media innovation at snack giant Mondelez International, former media agency executive Pete Mitchell, told Mumbrella that airlines are among the advertising sectors that will benefit most from taking programmatic trading function inhouse.

Chandler told Mumbrella: “In the online environment, there’s the opportunity to serve up advertising that is particularly relevant to groups based on what they’re doing online and offline.

“For instance, a Qantas Frequent Flyer who has just booked a flight to Perth is likely to be interested in premium accommodation in that city. If you have to see ads when you’re browsing online, it may as well be for services that are actually relevant to you.”

“Since the business commenced earlier this year, Red Planet has already been delivering positive results in terms of marketing effectiveness, both within the Qantas Group to assist with our own marketing spend, and for a number of key partners. We have had growing interest in partnering with clients to redefine their marketing spend.”

The new offering will cover the disciplines of media, analytics and research, using data gathered from the loyalty program’s 10.1m members as well as its Qantas Shop and other sources to offer more targeted advertising to other businesses, although the airline insists it will not on-sell any customer data to those outside businesses.

“We’re very mindful of protecting people’s individual data and privacy, but at a macro level the data the program generates provides some very powerful insights about consumer trends and traits,” said Chandler.

Red Planet sees its competitors as other companies with large data sets at their disposal such as telcos, banks or TV networks, with Nine’s data division Tipstone similar to Red Planet. Foxtel and Telstra have also made the move to have more control over their data, with both handling some of their digital spend in-house or with bespoke solutions tailored for them.

It claims to be able to marry online and offline data sets for clients “to overlay a sophisticated level of segmentation to a digital media buy” claiming “the accuracy in targeting of email direct marketing, but in the online space”.

In terms of research the company has engaged panels of Frequent Flyer and Aquire members for market research which it says will allow “companies to understand the attitudes, wants and needs of both mass and affluent Australia to enrich their consumer knowledge and inform business decisions”.

The move is part of the airline’s push to diversify its offering as its core business continues to struggle.

Last month the airline posted an underlying loss before tax of $646 million, however, the loyalty division was one of the airline’s shining lights, with its members climbing from 720,000 to 10.1m since June 2013 while award redemptions increased 11 per cent to 6.2m.

Earlier this year the airline launched a b2b push with its Aquire program getting businesses to sign up to be part of the Frequent Flyers network, while it has also recently launched a new dedicated portal for Frequent Flyer customers, as well as initiatives like a golf club for members.

Steve Jones and Miranda Ward 

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