Future of Media Advertising

How low-cost airline AirAsia is transforming itself into a publisher


By Shawn Lim, Reporter, Asia Pacific

December 7, 2020 | 5 min read

Sumit Ramchandani, the chief executive of AirAsia Media Group, explains to The Drum why the low-cost airline has pivoted to e-commerce, fintech and lifestyle pillars.

With international business travel and the tourist industry on hiatus for much of 2020 (and surely 2021), AirAsia has had to alter the way it does business to keep itself flying.

It has formed the AirAsia Media Group to consolidate its adtech, content and media-related solutions. AirAsia is keen to offer brands a new way of integrating adtech and data, focused on travellers and pop-culture in Asean.

AirAsia is therefore able to play an important role in engaging travel consumers. It owns a wide variety of omnichannel media assets, its own first-party data and can rely on a workforce of over 20,000 employees, known affectionately as Allstars; more than 1,000 of whom are influencers in their own right.

“It made sense for us to come up with a unique set of media offerings under AirAsia Media Group for marketers and unify them under a single group so as to maximise leverage from our ecosystem,” says Ramchandani.

“With the AirAsia Media Group we intend to help solve the challenges related to media efficacy and attribution while offering solutions that eventually drive business results for our advertising partners.”

He continues: “We see the media group as the engine to collate all our omnichannel advertising assets with our self-service adtech platform and enrich it with our intent-driven first-party data to create a results-oriented proposition for our advertising partners, from online to in-the-air, from origin to destination.”

AirAsia’s target customers are diverse, from locals to international travellers to the pop-culture scene, says Ramchandani. This diversity is on display in the airline’s core market of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), where it partners with both agencies and brands, looking to drive transparency and measurable business outcomes from their marketing investments in this region.

“Our partnership is either through direct buys based on campaign briefs or partnering for growth through our RedCarpet Channel Partnership. We believe that, as a publisher, we are in a unique position to drive full-funnel marketing and offer a strong conversion platform to showcase business results,” he explains.

“Some of the clients we are currently partnering with include leading e-commerce players in fashion and lifestyle, established travel technology platforms, a rapidly growing local upstart in the automotive space and more.”

From the ad inventory standpoint, AirAsia claims to have quadrupled its stock of quality media assets, all enriched with its targeted audience solution.

Its RedCarpet channel partnership allows the airline to connect the dots across its online and offline ecosystem, inflight announcements and Allstars, to drive marketing results for advertising partners.

“We are also progressing on a series of exciting new initiatives to enrich our engagement from our community base via content, chat and games,” says Ramchandani. “In addition to the above, in partnership with Universal Music Group (UMG), we are in the initial stages of a unique offering that combines fans, travel and talent in a manner that’s never been done before.”

The partnership with UMG has seen the birth of RedRecords, a music label which will sign new artists from Asia. The label recently concluded an integrated campaign for singer Jannine Weigel, with the debut of her first single Passcode. The aim was to expand awareness for her first single through AirAsia Media Group’s ecosystem within Asean and establish Wiegel as an Asean star.

The channel mix included digital media, which included homepage mastheads to that provided the volume and quality impressions, in-flight media, which included a slew of assets from branded livery on one of AirAsia’s Airbus A320 aircraft to meal tray backs, & in-flight music and announcements.

Customer relationship management tools were also utilised as emails, airasia.com super app push notifications, while a branded channel used ‘Connect’, AirAsia’s in-app interactive chat and community channel.

“In under a month, we managed to over-deliver on our reach target by 140% with a total of 2.9 million impressions at an engagement rate of 1.3% (36% above the category benchmark). During the campaign, Passcode owned 18.9% share of voice (SOV) on airasia.com, which was highest compared to any other campaigns running at that time,” Ramchandani claims.

The focus for AirAsia now is to grow across Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore. While ad inventory continues to remain as a hygiene, AirAsia is increasingly looking at redefining ads through its RedCarpet channel partnerships as the core of its 2021 strategy.

Through the airasia.com super app ecosystem, the airline wants to look at creating more avenues for brands to find business growth, says Ramchandani.

“After successfully forming channel partnerships with coffee brand ChekHup in Malaysia and Walch (hand washed and disinfectants) in Singapore, we are now in advanced discussions with some exciting brand solutions with regional partners in the fashion beauty and FMCG verticals,” he explains.

“We also look forward to partnering with marketers and showcase how the AirAsia ecosystem can help achieve their marketing goals around quality data and leading up to conversion.“

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