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We are giving advertisers a journey to remember. 

Do you want the most effective advertising for your brand? Read on…

At Ink, we love telling stories. We love it even more when we can back them up with hard and provable facts. So when we shout from the rooftops that air passengers are an affluent audience for advertisers, that their numbers are going to double over the next 20 years and that inflight magazine readership is on the up, it’s great to be able to back our boasts up with credible data from independent experts such as Gfk, the IATA and Kantar.

One thing we’ve always maintained and wanted to prove, is that the inflight environment IS UNIQUE. It’s a time when people are on their way to somewhere exciting, in a happy frame of mind and away from the distractions of their mobiles and laptops, giving them the time and opportunity to pay more attention to the content and advertising in travel media. With the importance placed on consumer engagement, we’ve always felt this was one of our key strengths…but how to go about proving it?

All we needed was two former karate world champions, an ex-professional footballer, some cutting-edge brainwave measurement technology and an aeroplane…

Ink enlisted the help of Higher Level, a team of cognitive and physical performance specialists who have worked with some of the biggest blue-chip companies in the world, as well as a host of elite sportsmen and teams, to add some science to what we’ve been saying all this time.

As a pre-test, Higher Level tested a group of participants on the ground, asking them to read an inflight magazine before their short-term memories were “wiped” by performing a word-search. They were then tested on what they could remember about the magazine’s content and advertising. While doing this, they were wired up to a lightweight brain computer interface to record their EEG (that’s the brain’s electrical activity to you and me).

Then came the fun bit.

A week later, our participants became passengers and joined Higher Level on a 7 hour flight to Dubai, where they were asked to do a similar test…but this time 30,000 feet in the air.

As far as we know, this type of airborne research hasn’t been attempted by any media company in the world before. Perhaps with good reason – it’s hideously expensive and, when conducting research in carefully controlled focus groups, it’s rare for participants to:

  • Decide to go to sleep
  • Tell us they were too engrossed in a film to do the test
  • Lock themselves in the toilet
  • Have to quit the test halfway through because of turbulence

But eventually we got the high-tech test done.

When we got home Higher Level went away and tested the results with Birkbeck University of London.

And this is what they found out:

Advertising recall saw a staggering increase on the plane compared to on the ground, rising from just under 44% to nearly 65%.

This means that brands using inflight magazines can expect a recollection rate nearly 50% higher than those appearing in publications consumed on terra firma.

Mervyn Etienne, applied cognitive neuroscience researcher at Birkbeck, and part of the Higher Level team explained the science behind these findings: “There is a close link between memory performance and neural oscillations (the rhythmic or repetitive neural activity which takes place in the central nervous system). The same oscillations that determine better memory performance are also associated with relaxation and the relief from anxiety.”

“We found that, after air passengers have been through all the stresses and strains of making it through passport control and security, being in a relaxed frame of mind when they’re finally in their plane seat would make it easier for them to absorb and recall messages – such as the content and advertising in inflight magazines. This research would seem to back that up”.

There we have it. We’ve always known we had something special. After all, hundreds of advertisers every year know this environment is delivering excellent results. Finally, we now have scientific proof that the inflight environment is perfect for brands’ advertising messages to be retained and recalled. So remember, next time you’re looking for a memorable, engaging and inspiring advertising space…just look up!

Download our comprehensive research piece here.


50 years of inflight media

I was recently asked to speak at the New York Times travel show event and, whilst writing my presentation, I soon realised that the growing phenomenon that is printed inflight media would be celebrating its 50th birthday this year.

The vast amount of change this world has experienced in the past 50 years is, without a doubt, metamorphic. However, that said, it would seem that we humans do indeed stick to – and trust – what we already know and believe. Let’s just say that, in this instance, familiarity really does breed fondness.

When we board a plane we know where to stow our luggage, we know how to switch the air on and we know that there is going to be a good read in the seat pocket in front of us. But it wasn’t always like that. Although the first commercial flight was in 1914, it took a further 52 years – until 1966 – for there to be a branded inflight magazine to read.

In 1966 (the year the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl and England won the World Cup) the world population was “only” 3.4bn, the number of people jumping on a plane was a mere 300m a year, and the price of oil was a snip at $1.36 per barrel (as opposed to today’s 7.4bn global population, 800m airline passengers in the USA alone and oil at a low of $48 a barrel). But whilst passengers were criss-crossing the Earth on a Boeing 707 and wolfing down beef bourguignon on the way, they were also reading a new genre-breaking inflight magazine at 35,000ft. American Way magazine for American Airlines had its first edition in winter 1966 and this season we are celebrating this momentous occasion. Happy 50th, American Way.

These days we travel in unprecedented numbers, devour more media than ever before and consume advertising within the comforts of seat 12A on an Airbus A320 or Boeing 787. We have Wi-Fi, we travel in style eating spicy quinoa wraps, and we get inspired to travel to even further-flung destinations from award-winning journalists and magazines. We get our news through digital apps and we are all absorbed in our phones, trying to find out what’s what on social media. We listen to pop sensation Adele through our new Bluetooth headphones and we walk around playing Pokémon Go. But does any of this actually show real, deep and meaningful engagement?

I would like to suggest that the airline or railway passenger who has the means to travel and the time to relax on that journey is a more valuable consumer than an anonymous digital impression, click or simple “like”. We have real thinking, breathing and consuming human beings enjoying that ephemeral moment that we all know and love so much – reading a tangible, tactile publication. It doesn’t matter if it’s ’66 or 2016: touching something real and physical builds a stronger direct connection.

But what’s to happen to printed media in the future? What can we expect from the world in 2036?

Well, if things keep going as they are, we can estimate the world population will be 8.7bn and flying passengers will leap to around 7bn (currently 3.4bn). The price of oil will most likely go up to $90 and the most popular plane will be the luxurious V2 Hypersonic craft. We might even be eating lab grown mini-livestock pies. We may even have President Chelsea Clinton re-marrying King Harry. The L.A. Rams will win the Super Bowl and Nigeria the World Cup. Who knows…? BUT I bet you one thing: as long as passengers want to fly in a comfortable and familiar environment and we all have functioning arms and eyes, we will be given a printed magazine to read. 

Printed travel media is that escape for every traveller. It is that positive dream and inspiration. It is that reassuringly familiar relaxing moment. So come advertise with us, and help become that storytelling dream of the future.

Read about the first ever issue published in the winter of 1966/67, 1975’s vision of future air travel, cover stars ranging from Sylvester Stallone to Homer Simpson and much more, all on our online version of The Big 50 American Way Magazine

We are travel media, we are Ink.


The Power of Positive Media

There is a chilly wind of discontent and unhappiness around so many of the world’s news outlets today; I feel it’s time to split the media into two sides: positive and inspirational vs. negative and unhappy.

I can see a number of struggling publications and channels – once the bastions of respectability – that have made the choice to go down kicking and screaming. Unfortunately, between them, the Brexit vote and the USA election have created the perfect unhealthy breeding ground for these noisy outbursts. How can these same organisations wonder why their businesses are not doing as well as they used to? Is it not plain to see? It doesn’t take a forensic media analysis to realise that the only positive stories in a newspaper today are the obituaries.

Ink write, produce and sell the advertising space for some of the largest magazines in the world. Maybe we are not a daily news company, but we are consumed by millions of people every day – maybe it’s time the industry put a greater store in the power of positive media? Maybe we should spend more time acknowledging the importance of expanding people’s minds and delivering inspiration, knowledge and insight? Just a thought.

It’s at times like these I am reminded of research conducted by the University of Amsterdam, which concluded that print readers remembered 28% more ads when they were in a good mood than when they were in a bad one. Zenith Optimedia ran a similar test – showing people ads after being exposed to happy or sad stimuli – which proved that those exposed to the happy stimuli were 9% more likely to say they were likely to use the advertised products in the future.

Advertisers not only need consumers’ attention, they also need them to be in the right mind space. To do that they need a positive space to showcase their products and brands. And that is what we offer. If I were a media buyer or a brand manager, I know where I would direct my precious advertising dollars, pounds or euros.

I know for a fact that there is about to be a tide of good and experienced writers journalists fleeing the very cornerstones of UK journalism, demonstrating that the backlash to funding hate is on the rise.

This rising tide of bile, allied with the increase in programmatic advertising, where neither advertiser nor publisher are necessarily aware of the content surrounding an ad, can lead to some unfortunate placements. 

Ask yourself, would you rather see your expensive and carefully planned campaign end up in an informative, contextual, controlled environment or the butt of a joke as seen here?

So I propose it’s time to annex those negative spaces from your lives and hop onboard for an inspirational journey.


Print & Digital Media: A Harmonious Relationship?

In the last 10 years, we’ve all come across a media expert claiming that: “Print is dead!” Once upon a time, we may well have braced ourselves with well-prepared sentimental view to past glories about wonderful “print moments ”. But as another month has passed, our print figures have gone up and more excitingly (in recent times) digital brands are also shifting into print.

There is no doubt, digital media has changed the game, but we’re happy to shout loud and proud that “print is alive and well” and it only takes a quick scratch of the surface to see the smart “digital first ” brands are in agreement with that too.

A number of high profile digital companies, have made the jump into print media. CNET, an online tech publication, launched its quarterly magazine, this was followed by AirBnB launching Pineapple to cater to the offline experiences of the AirBnB community.

In a recent article, Waitrose claimed that “print is its most effect channel for ROI” and that it allows enables the retailer “to tell a richer story”. Highlighting the tactile nature of print to form a sensory connection with readers using creatively branded print material, in-depth features and stunning photography to encourage engagement from cover to cover.

The travel media space really showcases the power of print media and digital media. With passenger numbers set to increase by 3.8% annually, more and more people are at our fingertips in the most conducive environment.

Read more here.


Recently ten Ink-sters took the journey of a lifetime – a trek across the Sahara.

Why would you want to hike across 55 miles of sand and rocks you may ask? Well, the answer is simple. It wasn’t just about raising much needed funds for a very deserving and needy cause, but also about the personal things we learned on that inspiring journey.

I found that taking on real and honest challenges, shoulder to shoulder with my colleagues, brings a sense of true accomplishment and connection, at the deepest of human levels.

Some people give their time, some their money. Some jump out of planes and some bake; but here at Ink, we very much encourage all of our colleagues to give back in anyway that they can. And we have a long and proud history of action.

Over the years we have had colleagues who ran, biked, walked and climbed Kilimanjaro (well done Michael), lost 22 kg whilst walking and running for charity (Herbert) and funded mosquito nets for children in Africa (Piet). In London, our bake off has become a regular thing.

Through giving back I have learned not to take the simple things in life for granted and also realise that we must seize the opportunities we have been gifted – that is why, from all of our offices around the world, we are committed to help those who need help.

Message from the Sahara team:

“After grueling days struggling through the 100c heat, the “Sahara 10” crossed the line in darkness at 19:30 after 23 hours of walking – blisters galore, sore limbs and joints.” But we did it. The final 5 miles were through the sand dunes making the already tired legs feel like blocks of concrete.” But the sense of accomplishment was complete.

I am proud (and sore) to have helped lead (and be led) through that desert by a dedicated and driven bunch of colleagues. It’s a personal journey and what we do here is inspire and motivate people to go on their own travels and have their own stories to tell. And, as I see it, if you can achieve all of that AND give back to the community – then the challenge is worth grabbing with both hands.

Today Marcus and his family visited our London office to tell us his story first hand and I can say that it was the most inspiring talk I have heard in a long time.

We are proud to be fundraising for the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital Charity’s “Make It Possible Campaign”. And we hope to see them raise enough money to expand their Spinal Cord Injury Centre (SCIC) to help people with spinal injuries get the specialist help they need.

Click on the link and help them “Make it Possible” by following the instructions.


Did the UK magazine circulation figures just confirm what we (and advertisers) already knew… ?

As the UK’s magazine circulation figures for the first half of this year are published, the media trade press is understandably – and correctly – awash with plaudits for 2016’s high-achievers.
Here at Ink we’re not too big or complacent to think we can’t learn from what other successful media companies are doing right but, having taken our looking-glass to the ABC figures, do they not tell us something we already know? Or is that just me?
So what is today’s news? Cosmopolitan, the biggest riser in 2016 so far, has achieved a staggering 60% circulation increase by slashing their cover price (to a quid), while also distributing 100,000 magazines to people for FREE as they travel through airports, shops and cinemas.
Before we even start questioning exactly how you read a magazine in a darkened cinema, let’s back up a bit. This is great news for Cosmo and Hearst, but isn’t this critically lauded strategy not just a localized version of what inflight and travel media has been doing for nearly 50 years?
Surely the ground rules are the same for all magazine publishers? We need ever-growing numbers of engaged readers, year-on-year, so that brands are attracted to advertise with us, to ensure we can keep on publishing the magazines. Or is what we have been doing since Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich were riding high in the pop charts (Google it kids) way too simple?
Maybe the big difference here is one of long-term sustainability. The inflight media model (rather than its newsstand mirror) is totally unique, in that its market size will double by 2034. Yes, you heard me correctly, DOUBLE.
Let me run that by you again: our potential market of real, live, actual readers (not a click or predictive formula or equation) will go up 5% year-on-year for the foreseeable future. And the beauty of air travelers is that we know they have the disposable income to afford flights. A cursory glance around any duty-free shop will also show you what an enthusiastic consumer group they are. What’s more, we know they are inspired to travel more and purchase more when they are in transit. All in all, an advertiser’s dream!
So yes Anna Jones (the chief executive of Hearst), you are right to be “encouraged” that your “strategy” is “working” but I’m afraid to say that your “dynamic new route to market” is old news for us and our smart advertisers and readers.
So come on. Stop trying to read your glossy women’s magazine in the cinema and come talk to us and our current passenger audience of 783 million people worldwide.
Talk to Ink. We are travel media.


Flyers are buyers

Have you noticed that some of the world’s biggest brands are visible and investing in travel media? Ever wondered why? Well, the answer is really straightforward: they’ve figured out that flyers are buyers.

Foreign customers spend 10 times as much abroad as they do at home said the CEO of Value Retail at a recent conference. We all spend more aggressively when we are away. So why not appeal to those people who seemingly have more money to burn.

So when I read a recent article aptly headlined, “The sky is falling on print newspapers faster than you think” I felt like shouting, “The sky may be falling in but that same sky is also full of  powerful and engaging print with lots of people reading it”. But I didn’t. Because I was on a bus.

A great campaign needs a full media mix, I find it so frustrating when inexperienced marketers tell us that they are doing digital only. When I ask “which form of digital?” they look back a bit blankly. At the last count there are more digital choices today than ever before and, even if you have a big budget, you cannot get the exposure and brand recall one advert will deliver in a good old fashioned well-read magazine. Unlike most magazines, every day up to six different people will sit in that seat and thumb through the magazine.

We’re living in an age of unprecedented digital connectivity, with the net result that we’re more distracted than ever before. Sitting on a plane, however, offers an opportunity to unplug themselves from the maelstrom of digital noise. Travel media allows travellers to sit back and disconnect from the rest of the world for the duration of their journey. 

 GPS research points out that 32% of passengers look forward to the inflight magazine “as part of their inflight experience”. With its mix of aspirational editorial and advertising, the inflight magazine plays a crucial role in both the anticipation and excitement phases of trips, whether for business or leisure purposes. All this enables brands to capture the undivided attention of travellers relaxing at 30,000 feet in the air.

As a case in point, Indiana State’s witty ad which appeared in United’s Hemispheres magazine delighted passengers so much that they were posing with it and sharing it on social media. This highlights to me that travel media can go beyond merely grabbing attention and on to forging deeper, richer connections with readers by triggering the right emotion, from the right audience, at the right time. 

I’ll close with a simple question – what does travel media mean to you? When I’ve asked clients this question, I usually get a mixture of responses ranging from “putting my business in the spotlight” to “bridging the gap between my online and offline strategy”.   

I typed this aboard a VS5 to Miami. Having watched two films, typed 37 emails and written this piece. If Vera had anything interesting to read (missed opportunity Virgin Atlantic), I would have consumed that. I don’t want to buy Duty Free, yet still browsed the catalogue. The point is, people who fly have a lot of time to think and consume messaging. Very different to life on the ground when you have little time to think about anything. 


The Power of Print: Free is the Magic Number

I imagine most publishers approach ABC day the same way that Vince Vaughn reads his film reviews. Dutifully, but with a gnawing sense of resignation. After all, there’s nothing like a page full of YoY% and PoP% minus signs to get the print doomlords and naysayers rubbing their hands in glee.

Trinity Mirror Solutions even coined a name for this negativity: “printism”, thereby drawing attention to a growing consensus in the advertising industry that the medium isn’t “sexy” and that you’re unlikely to win an award or earn a promotion off the back of print activity.  

The reality is somewhat more nuanced. Whilst it’s true that February’s ABC figures revealed an average annual circulation decline of 4%, 60 magazines posted an uplift and some titles appear to be thriving. Stylist continues to prosper, the NME and Time Out both recorded the highest ABC figures in their history, Shortlist and Sport posted increases which maintained their position as the two most popular men’s magazines on the market and The List saw its circulation rocket by 67%. Of course, these titles all have a couple of things in common, other than their success. They are all free and they are all aimed squarely at the millennial market that we were told had fallen out of love with print.

This suggests to me one thing; that print isn’t dead at all, nor even terminally unfashionable. Surely it’s more a matter that consumers – particularly younger ones – are reluctant to pay for content (News UK’s decision to remove the Sun’s paywall being a case in point)? However you look at it, the facts would seem to indicate people are perfectly happy to read well-crafted, ink-on-paper journalism, especially when it’s placed in their hands free of charge.

Of course inflight magazines have long been ahead of this curve on this. For over 50 years air passengers have been able to reach into the seat pocket in front of them, knowing that they can lean back, relax and enjoy the best in gorgeous photographylong-form articles and absorbing interviews with the world’s biggest celebrities.

These are the same passengers that have chosen the next destination for their holiday and bought millions of pounds, euros and dollars’ worth of things they saw in the magazine. The market is far from dead, at Ink we are seeing double digit growth and in 2016 we predict a further boom as we fly people to the Olympics, the Euros, to ski resorts, beaches, golf breaks and all those other treasured holiday escapes.

The good news is that over the next couple of years another 100 million more people will get on a plane. Our sector has a rosy future. As well as providing the perfect place to turn should the inflight movie turn out to be Couples Retreat.

We can connect with any audience you want to reach: from ravers to traders, baby boomers to boomerang kids, Generation Y to geriatrics…pretty much anyone in fact, except perhaps Dennis Bergkamp.*

Sometimes the best new things are just the old things you forgot.

*Not strictly true, we also publish Eurostar’s magazine.


Print Still Matters – Part 2

This is the concluding post from the talk titled Print Still Matters, at the 2016 New York Times Travel Show. If you haven’t already, read Part 1 to see my review on the 3 reasons why print still matters. In this post, I’ll explore the relationship between print and digital in the travel space. 

We can all hear the deafening noise surrounding digital and the multi-screen environment. So last year, as an experiment, we created the #hemigram social media campaign for United Airlines’ Hemisphere magazine.

The premise was really simple:  We invited passengers to photograph themselves with a Hemisphere magazine on the plane, or at a location, or with their pets; and we offered them no other incentive other than the chance to appear in the print magazine. And we were blown away by results.

With a deep sense of humor and originality, passengers were stimulated to participate, connect and share – regardless of their age, location and cabin position! And their special moments were beautiful, positive and personal.

Despite other distractions, we received thousands of submissions, gained new followers to our social channels, and we picked up hundreds of thousands of impressions with high engagement rates. All because we offered the chance to appear in print!

Through this positive project, we have further proved deep engagement and real connectivity with the readers. It also helped provide us with a platform to further demonstrate that around 74% of passengers on a United Airlines flight read the magazine and that many are spending over 28 minutes with the title. Powerful knowledge to have and we have learned much.

It has changed the way we look to promote our magazines and has helped us further look at ways to use print and digital together. We are finding that it’s not about “one or other”… It’s about both.  

So let’s forget this idea that there is a conflict between print and digital in the travel space today. There isn’t!

Last week has seen the perfect example. Cut a long story short; Samuel L Jackson is featured on the cover of United Airlines’ Rhapsody magazine, and basically via the New York Post and Daily Mail (sorry New York Times); the story went viral.  So much so, the media circus that is Donald Trump tweeted about it. Great to have a top trending story from a print travel magazine.


Travel operators find themselves to be their own media companies as they have a HUGE and loyal audience that regularly connects, engages and interacts with their brand.

I mean.  Just think: American Airlines will have 500,000 people on their planes today – and sitting in front of them is a high quality free magazine that is upbeat and beautiful. AND people read it. LOTS of people read it. In fact passenger numbers are going up around 5% year on year… so print matters more and more in this travel space.

You only need to look around at other contemporary media companies to see that they too have print at their heart of their communication strategy.  The best illustration of this actually comes from one of travels most disruptive and innovative “digital” companies of the last few years. AirBnB. Love them or hate them; they have change the industry forever. 

They recently launched Pineapple magazine with the intention to: “to explore our fundamental values: sharing, community and belonging,” and to “inspire and motivate exploration, not just within the cities featured, but within any space a reader finds themselves.”

They get it. That’s AirBnB.  And they are by no means alone – even outside the travel space.  Other recent digital converts to print are worth noting:

Health information company WebMD, fashion company Net-a-Porter, and my personal favourite: the company that – and I quote: “tracks all the latest consumer technology breakthroughs and shows you what’s new, what matters, and how technology can enrich your life.” CNET, has turned to print.  

So let me conclude and say that print matters as it builds positive, deep relationships and comes with loyalty with a strong level of trust that is as relevant today as it ever had been. Our travel media is positive. Our travel media helps you explore. Our travel media allows you to dream. Our media stimulates you. And our travel media works.

Let me leave you with one last point:

Did Caitlyn Jenner choose to reveal her new identity with a first interview on a TV show or with a video on a social media network? No… She took the decision to walk towards the most beautiful printed words and with the best photographer around today. And, quite simply – it immediately established her reputation and set the record straight before her new life had even started.

Print is part of people’s everyday life today and it always will be. 

Feel free to share the Slideshare presentation below.


Print Still Matters – Part 1

Last week, I was invited to speak at the 2016 New York Times Travel Show about whether print still matters. So it won’t surprise you to learn that on a panel full of editors and publishers that were all shouting loudly and positively as to why: Print Still Matters!

 But let me go a step further and repeat what someone said to me recently, which really sums it all up:

 “Paperless media is about as likely as the paperless toilet.” i.e. It’s never going to happen…

 Yes, we are all looking at our devices – at what seems like 26 hours a day (if my kids are anything to go by), but that doesn’t mean that print doesn’t matter. Print does matter. Storytelling matters, dreaming of foreign travel and making new discoveries matter and print is pivotal to all of these things at a deeply emotional level.

 Guide books, holiday brochures, travel supplements, maps, travel and inflight magazines. They all matter. And they all have been proven to be very effective for travelers for many many years.

 So thank you to PanAM, for inventing inflight magazines in 1966 and NOW 656 million passengers a year interact with the media that we create on behalf of our airline and rail partners. 

 But back to the point in hand.

Why does print matter today in the face of a younger, faster and possible more fashionable way of sending out information? What makes print and digital different for business and leisure travellers?

For 3 reasons:

Number 1 – No distractions

Print means: no distractions or horrible interruptions; not even a low battery or bad signal to worry about….

It’s just intimate and static; beautifully created images and words combined together at high quality.  Perfect….. Easy….. Simple…. 

 All we have readers “deep reading” and “deep thinking”. Fully engrossed, inspired and fully engaged.

 Just think: no small screened digital device bombard us with: emails, phone calls, selfies, bills, breaking news, directions, tweets, posts, and dates.

Ahhhh… Bliss…

Number 2 – Authority

 Since 1440 – print media has been a trusted source for information and news. And because print is fixed – it carries greater authority and gravitas. Years and years of building that confidence and reputation with publications like the New York Times has put print in good standing today. But basically, people like to be able feel the real paper AND that physical bond inspires confidence. It has Authority.

 Number 3 – Inspiration

Magazines and adverts – deliver inspiration; in a recent poll it was found that 82% of readers in Germany judged magazines as the best place for suggesting new ideas (Print Wirkt, 2015). And it’s this inspiration that leads to an action or a purchase. 45% of respondents of an IPC survey indicated that the magazine has inspired them to purchase an advertised product.

 I want to be clear and precise: so here is a fun video which is more succinct and entertaining than I could ever be….

Stay tuned for the second post from my presentation Print Still Matters.  Feel free to share the Slideshare presentation below: