With airlines turning seat backs, tray tables and even overhead bins into advertising platforms, looking out the window of an airplane has been one of the last ways to enjoy a marketing-free moment.

But, it looks as if that, too, is about to change—at least during that tedious time

On the ground: A file photo of O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. Ad-Air’s initiative at airports such as Heathrow, Atlanta and Dubai is only the latest in a line of marketing strategies directed at air travellers. In the past, advertisers have painted billboard-like ads on the rooftops and companies have created giant logos visible from the air.

London-based start-up Ad-Air Group Plc. said it has created what it calls the “first global aerial advertising network"—giant, billboard-like advertisements that will be visible from the air as planes approach runways.

“What an incredible marketing opportunity: All these passengers with nothing else to do, staring down at the ground below," said Paul Jenkins, managing director of Ad-Air.

Ad-Air said it had secured regulatory and planning approval to set up ad sites near more than a dozen major airports, including London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Atlanta, Denver International, Los Angeles International, Bangkok, Tokyo Haneda and Dubai.

The company said it was still negotiating with others in an effort to create a network of ad sites near 30 airports over all.

Jenkins said the first site will be set up near Dubai International Airport next month, with the initial advertiser an unidentified real estate developer.

He said Ad-Air was talking to a number of big brands about other sites, but declined to provide any names.

The introduction of Ad-Air comes amid strong growth in what the marketing industry calls outdoor advertising, which includes advertisements on everything from billboards to bicycles.

Marketers see such ads as one way to reach busy consumers who pay less attention to television spots than they used to.

But Steve Bond, managing director of Posterscope Group, an outdoor advertising agency, said persuading marketers to spend money with Ad-Air might be difficult. “It’s probably one of those media channels where you need to see it before you put money down on it," he said.

Ad-Air is not the first company to think of appealing to air travellers passing overhead. In many urban areas, advertisers have painted billboard-like ads on the roofs of buildings, for example, and companies have created giant logos visible from the air.

In Britain, a company called Flightpath Media Ltd has painted ads in fields near runways.

But often this kind of marketing is informal or unauthorized, lacking approval from local planning commissions and other regulators. Sometimes, analysts say, these advertisements are just stunts to get attention from the media.

One story that circulated in the UK last summer about an advertisement supposedly created by Flightpath Media for a racy website that offers “erotic lap dances direct to your mobile or PC" turned out to be a hoax.

The ad purportedly showed the silhouette of a naked woman gyrating around a pole, in white paint on a green field along the approach to London Gatwick.

But the ad did not actually exist—Flightpath Media used Photoshop to create the picture, said Stephen Pearson, managing director of Sports Media Gaming Ltd, which owns Flightpath Media and the lap dancing site.

“We got worldwide coverage and had the councils up in arms, which was pretty effective," Pearson said.

Ad-Air—which is privately held—said it had invested £5 million (about Rs40 crore) buying or leasing land under flight paths, aiming to create an advertising network of 30 airports worldwide.

Advertisers will pay £50,000 a month for one of the introductory sites, Jenkins said, with prices at busy airports eventually ranging up to £80,000 per month.

The ads—printed on a plastic mesh—will sit on metal frames about 12-18 inches, or 30-45cm, off the ground, Jenkins said.

Some of the sites are as big as 20,000 sq. m, or 215,000 sq. ft, giving advertising agencies plenty of space to come up with ad ideas, he added.

But some media buyers said the approach, if it caught on, could undermine the effectiveness of previous efforts to appeal to airborne travellers by making such pitches ubiquitous.

“The danger is that further proliferation actually cannibalizes these opportunities’ key strength—PR being driven by the unique and the rare," said Ailsa Lochrie, marketing director at MindShare Worldwide.