Ryanair eyes digital acquisitions for £10m-a-year tech hub ahead of second pan-European campaign

Ryanair is eyeing several digital acquisitions as part of its annual £10m investment in a tech innovation hub, ahead of a major pan-European campaign rollout in September, the airline’s chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs told The Drum.

Known as Ryanair Labs, the digital hub is a coming together of the brand’s marketing and technology teams in a wing of its new Dublin headquarters. It will see the hire of over 200 digital and tech specialists including a head of digital experience and head of digital marketing who will both report into Jacobs.

To fund the staffing of this project alone, Jacobs estimated £10m per year.

A new chief technology officer will also be brought in to help oversee the Lab which will not only focus on continually revising and reinventing the website and apps but will also be where new ideas and projects are developed and tested for the business as a whole.

The CMO revealed Ryanair “may be looking at acquisitions in the digital area and trailing new bits of hardware” to support this tech hub, although he didn’t go into detail.

For the moment, the key areas Ryanair Labs will focus on are mobile, content, customer profiling.

“We want to capture data from the customers who are transacting with us and integrate it with other sources data we already have with a view to personalisation,” Jacobs said, explaining that he is aiming to have a data platform mobilised by September this year by which time a head of insight and data will have been hired to drive its retention strategy forward.

He added there will be a CRM and data account pitch kicking off in autumn this year.

One of the first product launches from the tech hub will be a new app. Available from July, the app will offer Ryanair customers the option to use mobile boarding passes instead of having to print their own or pay the reissue boarding card fee.

It comes ahead of the pan-European roll-out of a new TV, outdoor, print, radio and experiential campaign set to similarly launch in September.

Earlier this year the brand unveiled its first TV ad in 25 years – created by Dare – which ran in four European markets [UK, Spain, Ireland and Germany].

Proclaiming the airline had changed, chief Michael O’Leary said he wanted the activity to take the notoriously hostile brand in a new, altogether friendlier direction.

“It significantly turned the dial in terms of what people think of the Ryanair brand experience,” Jacobs asserted. “Booking have been strong across all of Europe, but especially in those four markets.”

As a result, it retained the creative services of Dare and tasked them with a follow-up campaign.

Jacobs said there will be “good creative consistency” but new elements will be introduced with a hard hitting, "punchier" and confident retail message.

In addition, the contract with Mediacom was extended for the next 12 months.

A digital agency will also be appointed to work with the Ryanair Labs group. Jacobs revealed three agencies have been engaged for specific digital projects and from those three he will select one in the coming months to work with the brand on a longer-term basis.

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.