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Flighting in Marketing & Advertising: Definition & Strategy

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Why would a business participate in flighting - and what exactly does flighting even mean? In this lesson, you'll learn the definition of this important advertising basic and what flighting strategy entails.

Flight Season

Fall is approaching, so you know what that means: time for the Halloween pop-up boutique to start advertising! After all, most people don't buy Halloween costumes in the spring, right? And, don't forget, tax season just a few months later. The tax preparation people will be dominating your television, radio, print, and digital ads, reminding you to get down to their stores and get your taxes filed with, hopefully, a big, fat refund in store.

As consumers, we've grown accustomed to these somewhat seasonal advertisements. Halloween boutique ads would look pretty silly in January, and tax season ads would be mostly pointless after April. But, did you know this type of advertising actually has its own term? It's a strategy in advertising known as flighting.

What is Flighting?

Flighting actually has nothing to at all to do with airlines or flying. Instead, flighting is a process where advertisers schedule messages to run during optimal periods of time, followed by planned periods of inactivity. When the advertisement is actually active, the period is known as a 'flight'.

So, think back to our tax preparation service. Tax preparers are busiest when consumers are thinking about filing their annual taxes. Typically, this is a period from the start of a new year until the tax deadline of April 15. A provider of tax preparation, then, might run a flight of ads from January to April, with no advertisements during the remainder of the year. The reason? January through April is the optimal time for the company to get business, so it makes sense to target customers during this particular period of time.

What's Behind Flighting?

For businesses, flighting is about more than simply targeting consumers when the time is right (though that's certainly an important point). Indeed, there's a strategy to flighting that's worth taking a look at.

Which of these scenarios makes the most sense to you?

A. A tax preparation business runs expensive television ads every month of the year, hoping that customers will remember them in peak tax-filing season.

Or,

B. A tax preparation business runs television ads only in the most important months of the year, conserving its advertising dollars and still reaching consumers in peak tax-filing season.

Did you pick B? Why? Was it just because of the appropriate timing of the ads? Or, did you see something else?

The strategy behind flighting certainly lends itself to appealing to your audience only in a business's most critical period. But, it also means that a business is not investing its hard-earned money into advertisements that will fall on deaf ears. Most people are not thinking about tax preparation season in June, July, or August. Probably not in September, October, or November either. And, certainly not in late April or the month of May. If a business can finely tune its advertising strategy for the most crucial months, it can ensure the right people are hearing the right message at the right time, while saving the business money in the process.

Flighting also presents another unique opportunity for advertisers. Knowing you're going to purchase a large amount of advertising in a short period of time may qualify you for bulk discounting.

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