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I was looking over the wikipedia article for the 737NG when I came across this picture:

enter image description here

As you can see, the operator of the jet has written their companies web address on the winglet. Which seems like a waste, I'm already on their airplane, there's no need to sell me, it's not so much an ad as a reminder at that point...

So, I couldn't help but think, when looking at it, that it would be somewhat clever if RedBull bought the rights to advertise on a 737NG and wrote something on that spot that said, "Redbull gives you winglets" (rimshot).

Sillines aside, there is a serious question here. Generally speaking if there is a public surface that many many people will be forced to stare at for any length of time, then there is an advertisement there. Bus stops, billboards, the sides of buildings, there are ads virtually everywhere. Heck, commercial aviation equipment even has a few already with some of the jetways you see at airports:

enter image description here

There are tens of thousands of people who see winglets every day (and even more who see winglets in travel pictures, blogs, etc), so why aren't advertisers taking advantage of the space and, further, why aren't airlines trying to sell the space in order to increase revenue?

I'm wondering if perhaps there are regulations that might make this difficult? A good advertising spot will change images and products fairly frequently. On a winglet that would necessitate either a new paint job or, perhaps, a new vinyl wrap (like what is used in NASCAR.) And I'm wondering if the regulations for commercial aircraft regarding how the winglets are painted would prohibit this sort of "quick switch" activity (are wraps even legal)? Or perhaps there is a certification process for all new paint jobs that would make it so the amount spent to advertise would never match the increase in sales?

Or is it just that airlines have a sense of pride about their aircraft and respect their passengers enough to not bombard them with ads? (...yeah, I doubt it's this last one as well ;-) ).


Edit: I did mark this one for FAA Regulations, but I feel EASA regulations should be similar enough to give some insight as well, so if you want to answer with those regs feel free.

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    $\begingroup$ PLEEEEASE don't give them any ideas! $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Aug 10 '15 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ @JayCarr Its whether the airline choses to have their advertisement on the winglet like for example southwest on almost all their airplanes has a advertisement on the winglet and the winglet is the perfect place to put an advertisement on it instead of the rudder because some people don't even look at the airplane before they fly on it, so them sitting near the wing could sell them to fly on southwest airlines their next trip. $\endgroup$ – Ethan Aug 10 '15 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Ethan, I agree, which is why I'm asking why they don't perhaps sell the space to other advertisers (like Red Bull or Coke), who might be willing to pay good money to have an add in that spot. $\endgroup$ – Jay Carr Aug 11 '15 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ You may extend your question to other part of the aircraft that are visible to passenger, either from inside the aircraft (let's say seats, luggage compartements,...) or from the terminal (the whole painting, as for some city buses) $\endgroup$ – Manu H Aug 11 '15 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ @JayCarr Its because other companies don't need to advertise on a winglet because they have commercials or billboard signs that do the advertising they don't need to waste their money on putting an ad on the winglet of an airplane. And everybody knows about coke and Red bull, so those companies prefer to advertise through commercials and on bill boards $\endgroup$ – Ethan Aug 11 '15 at 16:31
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Why airlines don't put third-party ads on winglets

I would assume that a significant part of the answer is that it would look and feel cheap (i.e. not good for the airline's brand image.) They don't usually sell advertising elsewhere on their livery for much the same reason (though they do occasionally dedicate a livery to advertising some charity or some such thing, but that doesn't normally hurt their brand image.) On the other hand, putting the airline's brand image there can possibly help to improve it.

While you are already on the airline's flight, they'd be quite happy if you purchased more flights with them in the future and even more happy if you purchase the tickets directly from their website where they don't have to share the revenue with a travel agent. An additional benefit of mentioning the website is that many airlines now have on-board Wi-Fi and allow you to access their website from it even if you haven't paid for the Wi-Fi. As such, if they can get you thinking about their website and you happen to hop on it and book your next trip while cruising around at 30,000 feet, that's a win for them.

Finally, while they do already have you on board, they're well aware that lots of people post pictures taken while they were on a flight, especially pictures that include the wing (such as the one in the question.) Now your pictures are free (and usually positive) advertising for them.


Vinyl Wraps / Decals

As far as wraps are concerned, as far as I know, yes, they're legal and actually pretty common, even for the fuselage livery. My understanding is that lessors use them pretty frequently. They've also been used for temporary liveries like this one:

Air New Zealand Hobbit Livery

It appears that several companies exist for the sole purpose of making aircraft wraps. A quick search found the following:

AdGraphics
AircraftWraps
Plane Vinyl

It appears that 3M makes a lot of the materials used for the wraps.

I also found an FAA document on aircraft coatings that talks about how to apply vinyl decals to aircraft (along with how to paint aircraft, etc.) From page 18:

Vinyl Film Decals
To apply vinyl film decals, separate the paper backing from the plastic film. Remove any paper backing adhering to the adhesive by rubbing the area gently with a clean cloth saturated with water. Remove small pieces of remaining paper with masking tape.

  1. Place vinyl film, adhesive side up, on a clean porous surface, such as wood or blotter paper.

  2. Apply recommended activator to the adhesive in firm, even strokes to the adhesive side of decal.

  3. Position the decal in the proper location, while adhesive is still tacky, with only one edge contacting the prepared surface.

  4. Work a roller across the decal with overlapping strokes until all air bubbles are removed.

This page from signindustry.com goes into more detail about how to apply vinyl decals to aircraft from a professional installer standpoint.

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  • $\begingroup$ Do you know of anywhere that specifically states that wraps are okay? I mean, the picture is kind of self evident, but I was kind of wondering about the rules regarding how they're applied and things such as that... All the same, this basically answers the questions so, there you go. $\endgroup$ – Jay Carr Aug 10 '15 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ @JayCarr Wonder what happens if the wrap starts to peel off mid flight. Would it shred or come off as one large piece. Would the debris get into the engines? Wrap and foul a control surface? Or is that too unlikely & the air flow would clear any debris instantly? $\endgroup$ – curious_cat Aug 11 '15 at 6:02
  • $\begingroup$ @JayCarr In a quick search, I haven't found the exact regs yet, but I did find several companies that make vinyl wraps for aircraft and an FAA document that talks about how to apply vinyl decals. $\endgroup$ – reirab Aug 11 '15 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ @JayCarr Answer updated to include some of the info I found on vinyl wraps/decals. $\endgroup$ – reirab Aug 11 '15 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ @curious_cat If applied properly I doubt they would come lose... But I bet there are some surfaces you are not be allowed to attach them to just incase they do come lose. Like the top of the wing, for example, since that would disrupt the airfoil. Though I'm not sure if the winglet would count as part of that or not... Since it isn't used to generate lift but rather to reduce the tip vortex. $\endgroup$ – Jay Carr Aug 11 '15 at 13:52
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I doubt the space is worth very much. The interior side of the winglet is really only visible to people on the plane and even most people on the plane can't see it well. You're only advertising to people with window seats at or behind the wing, plus a few people in non-window seats close to the wing who can see the winglet while looking almost perpendicularly out of the plane. That's only a few tens of people per flight who can see the ad. Multiply that by a few round-trips per day per plane and your ad is only reaching a couplefew hundred people a day. Given the cost of applying the ad to the winglets, I doubt that's economically viable, when you consider that a billboard ad can be seen by thousands of people an hour and is much cheaper to produce.

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    $\begingroup$ I completely agree, if it was viable Ryanair would have done it already. $\endgroup$ – GdD Aug 9 '15 at 19:33
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    $\begingroup$ Plus, it gives your company a VERY cheap image. Some LCC wouldn't mind tho. $\endgroup$ – Antzi Aug 10 '15 at 7:39
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    $\begingroup$ Before we see Winglet ads the Airlines ought to be putting ads inside on seat-backs n walls n bulkheads etc. More sq. feet, more visibility, less trouble to paint. $\endgroup$ – curious_cat Aug 10 '15 at 14:14
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    $\begingroup$ @curious_cat Some already do put some ads on the seat-backs, if you count the IFE systems. $\endgroup$ – reirab Aug 10 '15 at 14:15

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