Airport advertising – an overlooked revenue opportunity. CAPA's guide to the state of the art


Airports Council International (ACI) once urged its members to aim to generate at least 50% of its revenues from non-aeronautical sources and while it is not so doctrinaire today it still recommends that they maximise that potential wherever possible.

While some exceed rather than merely achieve that figure many others fail to match it altogether. The search is on to find new and innovative methods of increasing these revenues. One of the most promising is airport advertising though in too many cases it is a side issue and is even overlooked altogether on occasion.

The nature of that business is changing. It is no longer a case of merely putting a poster up on a wall; digital is the order of the day and advertisements are highly targeted. Advertising can and should no longer be considered the Cinderella of the airport non-aero revenue segment.

Airports' main revenue streams follow several common threads

Nothing is set in stone – revenue channel opportunities at airports are many and varied and can even be unique to one – but in broad terms the most popular revenue generating methods are briefly outlined below:

  • Terminal concessions – which have benefitted from the decision of some airlines to discontinue, cut back on, or ration onboard FBO and sales of goods and because airport dwell times are enhanced for security reasons (which obviously impacts on advertising as well);
  • Car parking – obviously popular where public transport is absent, underfunded or inappropriate to the location, and which is growing in popularity as new offers emerge such as premium/valet parking, valeting, other service enhancements such as redesigned lots (extra security, heated etc) and also non-airport use;
  • Car rental – through an airport customer facility charge;
  • Land use (real estate) – freight, warehousing, offices, manufacturing, business estate, airport city, farming, drilling for oil and gas and oil refinery etc, leisure – golf course, race track, landside restaurants, discotheques, even theme parks ;
  • Filming (cinema, television, commercial) – often with a ‘city backdrop’ or where ‘action’ filming is required;
  • Advertising programmes – non-traditional advertising locations, and becoming increasingly technological.

Advertising can fit in with other channels but per pax revenues are low

One advantage of advertising as a revenue source that stands out immediately is that it fits in with many of the other channels, i.e. it can be deployed in the terminal, in corridors, at gates and in air bridges, on airport or business estate access/egress roads and at surface transport stations (rail/bus), in car parking lots and leased car rental offices and so on. It is pretty well ubiquitous.

Despite this advantage typical per passenger revenues from advertising remain low. The figures in the table below are from the 2013 ACI World Economics Report (data from 2012). They compare revenue per passenger (in USD) in the sub-segment of Advertising with those that found in the other sub-segments of Retail Concessions, Food & Beverage (FBO), Car Parking, Car Rental Concessions, and Property or Real Estate Income or Rental. The table was drawn up out of responses from ACI members worldwide.

ACI non-aero income per passenger tables

In every ‘airport by size (pax numbers)’ category, advertising generated the least USD revenue per pax with the sole exception of food and beverage in the > 40 million ppa category.

Where airports are divided into regulatory mechanism categories (single, dual, and hybrid till) advertising revenues are again the lowest in most cases.

Where airports are divided into ownership categories, advertising generates the lowest revenue per passenger in the case of full public ownership. One might think that private owners would be more attuned to the power of advertising but that is not seemingly the case with full private ownership where only USD0.14 (14 cents) was generated on average according to this survey. Strangely, advertising did better in the PPP category at USD0.52 pp, outstripping both food & beverage and car rental.

There is more value in the emerging markets

An interesting statistic emerges where airports are categorised according to economic groupings, which are: Advanced; Emerging/Developing; Euro Area; Major Advanced (G7); BR ICs; Frontier Markets (less developed than an emerging market); ASEAN 5 (Indonesia; Malaysia; Philippines; Singapore; Thailand – the founding members); and Emerging Aviation Markets. In all the advanced market categories advertising comes sixth out of six in the rev pp league (and fifth in the ASEAN category). But in all the emerging market categories except one it ranks third of six. (The exception is Frontier Markets where it ranks fifth). This suggests that advertising has made more impact as a revenue generator, and has a higher actual and perceived value, in these emerging markets.

And this theory gains some support from the final category, grouping by World Region, where advertising scores third in the ultimate emerging market, Africa.

To set all the above in context, global advertising expenditure in total has been growing by around 5% per annum, roughly in line with GDP growth according to Zenith Optimedia. In 2014 it was +5.1%. However, in 2015 it is expected to fall to 4.9% growth while GDP is at +6.3%. This is accounted for by the lack of major global events such as the FIFA World Cup, the Winter Olympics and the US Mid-Term Elections, which all took place in 2014. The differential is expected to narrow slightly in 2016 (+6.6% GDP growth vs. +5.6% ad-spend growth and then increase again in 2017 (+7% vs. +5.22%).

2016 is expected to experience this increased spend of 5.6% as a result of the UEFA European Football tournament, as well as the Summer Olympics and the US Presidential Elections.

It is useful to compare air passenger growth forecasts with these GDP and ad-spend growth forecasts. IATA recently released a 20-year traffic forecast which anticipates average growth of 4.1% over that period, doubling the 3.3 billion passengers that are expected in 2015. Airports Council International’s figures are very similar for the period 2012-2031; a report that was produced several years ago. In particular, ACI’s forecast for 2015, 2016 and 2021, at 4.8%, 4.6%, and 4.1% respectively, average out at 4.5%. The two main aircraft manufacturers, Boeing and Airbus, have more optimistic forecasts of between 6% and 7% passenger growth.

So airports will be growing at a slower rate than advertising expenditure though the difference is not huge.

Mobile advertising will drive spend

Mobile advertising will be the main driver of advertising spend growth, forecast to account for over half (51%) of all new spend between 2014 and 2017, growing at an average of 38% each year. This will be facilitated by the continuing growth in the number of devices being released, and innovations within advertising technology.

Despite that growth, mobile advertising spend is likely to only account for 6.2% of all spend in the US with digital display singled out as one key driver. There has been an estimated 26% growth in traditional digital display, which is expected to continue to emerge further with technological evolution.

As for spending by region, the weakness in both the Japanese economy and the Euro zone has held back advertising spend globally, with Japan’s advertising market annual growth at between 2-3%, which is not expected to improve in the next few years according to forecasts by Zenith and others. In fact Japan’s will decline by 0.4 percentage points.

Growth in advertising spend by region 2013-14

Anticipated growth in advertising spend by region 2014-17

While Japan may actually shrink back in the next few years there will probably be some growth in Western & Central Europe (+0.5 percentage points) although potentially that can be severely adversely affected in the Euro zone by a Greek exit (which could even come in the next few weeks) or a UK exit, which would be determined by a referendum before the end of 2017 if a Conservative-led government is returned on 07-May-2015.

The interesting thing again is the anticipated ad-spend growth rates in ‘developing’ regions such as Middle East & North Africa (+1.7 ppts) and Eastern Europe & Central Asia, which are lumped together by Zenith Optimedia (+5.5 ppts).

So a quick summary of this very brief overview of global airport advertising and trends in the industry generally suggests that the opportunities for both airports and for advertising companies is going to be in relatively undeveloped world regions where, coincidentally, there is also some considerable airport construction activity according to CAPA’s Airport Construction and Cap Ex Database.

For example there are airport projects to the value of USD29 billion in Central & Eastern Europe right now, USD17 billion in North Africa, USD4 billion in Central Asia and a whopping USD134 billion in the Middle East. And that does not take into account new build green field airports.

Airport advertising’s main category accounted for 7% of UK spend

For the remainder of this report the focus will be on the UK as a bellwether for the industry, and for two reasons. Firstly, the UK is recognised as one of the global centres of the advertising industry (along with the US) even though actual advertising spend there is small compared with the US, China and Brazil, and only on par with similar sized European countries.

Secondly because all of the UK’s commercial airports are corporatised, with the vast majority either fully privatised or at least partially so (as PPPs), two categories that were amongst the lowest and highest for airport ad-spend revenue per passenger in the ACI table above. The way advertising is distributed throughout the UK is represented in the charts below, to a total of 100%. The left hand chart is the year 2012 and the right hand chart a projection for 2017.

Advertising distribution in the UK

The predominance of internet and television advertising is evident (29% and 26% respectively) and this is expected to increase. Airport advertising traditionally falls into the category of Out-of-Home (OOH), which is advertising that reaches the consumer while they are outside the home. It accounted for 7% of advertising spend in the UK in 2012 and that figure is expected to remain unchanged in 2017.

More specifically, OOH is concerned with marketing to consumers when they are “on the move” in public places, in transit, waiting (such as in a medical centre), and/or in specific commercial locations (such as in a retail venue, or an airport). OOH advertising formats fall into four main categories: billboards, street furniture, transit, and alternative.

‘Billboard’ can be digital or non-digital (increasingly digital) and is commonly used on approach and departure roads at airports.

‘Street furniture’ is made up of formats such as bus shelters, newsstands and racks, shopping mall kiosks, and telephone booth advertising. This form of OOH advertising is mainly seen in urban centres but can be applied in an airport environment.

‘Transit’ or ‘Transport’ advertising is most applicable to airports. It is typically advertising placed on anything which moves, such as buses, subway/metro/underground advertising, lorries (trucks), and taxis, but it also includes fixed static and electronic advertising at rail and bus stations and platforms. Airport advertising is included in this category as it helps businesses address their audience while it is travelling. Municipalities often accept this form of advertising, as it provides revenue to city and (air) port authorities. (Many municipalities remain very active in the ownership and management of airports, especially in the US).

‘Alternative’ out-of-home media refers to the use of innovative technology and concepts, such as video advertising networks and digital billboards, to connect with more elusive consumers in captive environments, including retail, transit, cinema and office locations. It is often cutting edge technology which, because of its digital nature, has been the fastest growing category and will probably continue so to be; and it certainly has airport applications.

It could be argued that Business-to-Business (B2B) advertising also embraces airports. B2B is defined as marketing efforts that are directed toward other businesses rather than to individual consumers. B2B advertising may involve the promotion of products such as office machinery, or services such as human resources, or logistics, that are primarily designed for businesses.

In an airport context it will certainly include promotion of the city-region in which the airport is situated for business purposes such as office or factory (re-)location (including the growing band of ‘airport cities’) as well as promotion of conference facilities and events that are taking place in the city-region.

If B2B is included as well as OOH, then airport advertising falls within two categories that jointly made up 17% of UK ad-spend in 2012, expected to reduce to 14% in 2017 owing to a three percentage point reduction in B2B spend. In other words, within the two main categories where airports are featured business will either remain static or decline in the next two years, while TV and (especially) Internet advertising grows.

OMC data has general and specific ad spend at some of its highest ever levels

Another information source, the Outdoor Media Centre (OMC), the UK trade body for outdoor media owners, has some contradictory data on outdoor advertising revenues, as in the chart below. Those revenues distinctly tailed off in line with the recession from a high of GBP976 million in 2007 to a low of GBP782 million just two years later. However, the recovery has been strong, with revenues of GBP1,019 million recorded in 2014, another highest level since 2000.

UK Outdoor Advertising Revenues 2000-2014

The question that has not yet been answered is what percentage of that OOH/B2B spending is actually at airports? That figure could not be given by the OMC for a variety of reasons, but a more general ‘transport’ expenditure amount is published.

As the chart below shows, the generic Transport category recorded an expenditure level of GBP409 million in 2014, and again that figure has been rising – if not quite steadily - since 2010, to record the highest level in this instance since 2005.

The increase in 2014 was 7.6%, higher than that for ‘roadside’ and also than ‘retail/leisure’ which recorded a decrease.

It is important to bear in mind though that this statistic covers a much broader sphere than just airports and includes surface transport modes such as buses, trains, trams, metro, lorries (trucks) and taxes.

If we take into account here the earlier conclusion that if B2B is included as well as OOH then airport advertising falls within two categories that jointly made up 17% of UK ad-spend in 2012 and the later one that ‘transport’ ad revenues are GBP409 million out of GBP1019 million in 2014 (40%) then it is a reasonable assumption that airport advertising will account for roughly 6% of total outdoor advertising revenues.

6% of GBP1019 is GBP61 million and this roughly tallies with a figure in an OMC document (see below) of GBP50 million.

Summary: Advertising spend is mostly low, growing slowly, with opportunities in emerging markets

So far we have identified the following:

  • Airport advertising spend per passenger is low with a few exceptions;
  • There are opportunities in emerging markets, which is also where ad-spend is likely to grow faster;
  • Global advertising spend in general is growing but is increasingly focused on TV and Internet channels at the expense of more traditional ones. Digital methods increasingly predominate;
  • Anticipated GDP, air passenger numbers and advertising spend growth rates in the following years are broadly similar;
  • Airport advertising falls into two categories; Out-of-Home (consumer) and B2B (business);
  • It accounts in the UK for no more than 6-7% of total OOH/B2B advertising revenues.

10 reasons to use airport advertising, according to OMC

So how does the industry promote advertising as a good airport investment and vice versa?

The OMC produced a survey-based 15-slide document, “10+ Reasons to use Airport Advertising,” focused on the UK market. The survey was sourced from data originating at, inter alia, the UK CAA, Airbus, J C Decaux (various), Eye Travel (various) and NMR. The following is a synopsis of that presentation, with objective comment from CAPA where appropriate.

Slide 1

The document opens with the usual facts and figures, which are accurate (over 220 million passengers in the UK in 2013, a high volume marketplace, and air traffic expected to double in the next two days with 4.8% compound growth). Indeed, there were 238 million in 2014, which is +8.1% according to the OMC figures, or +4.4% according to CAA statistics.

CAPA comment: Traffic volume is only one factor in assessing the power of advertising at airports. There is a need for academic research into the degree of response of passengers to advertising stimuli. Passengers’ senses are bombarded from the moment they arrive at the airport. Many, including Manchester Airport for example, have multiple digital sites urging passengers “not to be the ones that cause your flight to be delayed.” Speed is of the essence from the moment the passenger walks through the door.

Then follows a stressful security and immigration procedure conducted at speed, thereafter entry into what is essentially a shopping mall en route the gates, supported by multiple food and beverage and entertainment options. There is precious little time for passengers to relax and take in what is around them both landside and airside, including advertising. The third slide (below) claims that 71% of passengers say they have time to read advertisements.

Slide 2 is concerned mainly with business travellers.

  • 46% of business travellers are from AB socio-economic group
  • 69% of business travellers “expect to see business and corporate advertising”
  • Business travellers are key decision makers in every area of spend within their company
  • Business travellers are tech savvy, early adopters of new technology and internationally focused

Slide 3

  • 85% of passengers enjoy airport advertising
  • 85% of passengers are open to finding out about new products and services at the airports
  • 71% say they have time to read advertising messages

Slide 4

 - is concerned with the ‘range of mindsets’ through different stages of the airport journey. It shows that the highest ‘arousal rate’ is at the check-in and departure levels, where short, visual, impactful messages are required. In contrast, arousal is only moderate at the shopping stage (e.g. Duty Free) demanding more complex, informational messages.

Examples of high arousal stage advertising:

Example of low arousal stage advertising:

Slide 5

- delves deeper into the psychology of purchase decisions and identifies different moods (top line) and the required advertising messages (lower line) at each stage of the airport journey.

Slide 6

- deals with passenger reaction to branding. It concludes that:

  • 92% of passengers agree that airport advertising increases a brand’s international status
  • 91% agree that brands benefit from advertising in airports
  • 67% expect to see international brands at the airport
  • 60% of business travellers agree that airports are the most effective place to advertise International B2B brands

Slide 7

- describes an airport audience as ‘influential.’

  • The airport is the best way to reach influential people
  • Influence on purchase behaviour of peers
  • Appreciation, and influence of advertising
  • Airport advertising has the capacity to attract attention, make a connection and genuinely influence even after those exposed have departed
  • Ads have a long-term impact on airport audience memory

CAPA comment: the final bullet point is debatable. The complexity of travel litigates against adverts being the most or more memorable aspect of a journey. Again, perhaps a further degree of research would be applicable.

Slide 8

- proclaims that dwell time is higher at airports than in other OOH environments.

  • Average dwell time a passenger spends at an airport is 2.5 hours – higher than rail, underground and bus stops
  • Airport media may create a stronger impact amongst passengers due to longer dwell time
  • Increasing dwell time allows opportunities for passengers to absorb the message and remember the brand in future
  • Airport advertising can drive and encourage passengers to retail visits
  • Responses to Airport ads are 18% higher than roadside

CAPA comment: there is an implicit belief here that dwell time – which is certainly longer than the comparable time available at surface transport locations – will be spent studying adverts. It could be argued that time spent viewing adverts and considering their message will be a function of the presence and strength of the alternative available attractions. In a major international hub airport these will be many. In a secondary or tertiary level airport serving a small town or city they may be few.

Slide 9

This slide focuses on Duty Free advertising, which it describes as ‘retail therapy.’

  • An average of 37 minutes is spent whilst shopping in duty free
  • 73% say they always shop at the airport
  • 55% of C-suite passengers arrive early to browse in the duty free
  • 70% of passengers do not plan what to buy at airports, encouraging impulse purchases
  • 78% of passengers enjoy going around the shops at the airport
  • 84% say they are happy or excited whilst shopping at an airport
  • 70% of flyers shop at the airport and are open to sales messaging regarding what to buy
  • 72% of flyers buy gifts at World Duty Free (a brand)
  • 86% of passengers make a purchase in the departure lounge

Slide 10

- identifies the most appropriate places to advertise consumer products, gifts and treats:

Top purchases in airports:

  • Perfume/Aftershave
  • Alcohol
  • Newspapers/Magazines
  • Drinks
  • Books

Top 3 gifts:

  • Fragrance (67%)
  • Alcohol (51%)
  • Chocolate and confectionery (43%)

Slide 11

This slide deals with corporate, finance and technology advertising

  • 20% of airport revenue came from technology advertising in 2013
  • 70% of business travellers agree that global brands fit the international profile of airports
  • 66% of C-suite business travellers expect to see B2B advertising in airports
  • 47% of business flyers agree that it would be relevant to see advertising for finance deals at the airport when returning home from a trip

Slide 12 

- “No better place to talk travel”

  • No wastage: airport travellers are 100% travel-friendly
  • 85% of air travellers think about booking their next trip at the airport
  • 69% of arriving passengers are looking for ideas for their next holiday
  • 73% are looking for ideas for things to do and places to visit
  • 59% are open to finding out about alternative travel options for their journey home

CAPA comment: The first bullet point is unquantified through research and appears to be overly simplistic. Both business and ‘leisure’ travellers can be doing so under duress with no objective other than to get the trip over with as soon as possible.

Slide 13

- is dedicated to digital OOH

  • Digital signs at airports offer new dimensions to advertisers
  • Tactical, day part and day of week advertising becomes possible
  • 77% of passengers agree that digital signage could influence them to take action
  • 66% of passengers want to download entertainment
  • 61% of passengers are interested in downloadable coupons and offers
  • Responses to digital ads are 21% higher than static

CAPA comment: This slide hints at the greater variety of advertising options that are available by digital means, a subject that is dealt with later in examination of one particular airport. It is undeniable that ‘digital’ is revolutionising what was a moribund industry, as it has with others.

Slide 14

This slide is concerned with how advertising in arrivals areas is slightly different

  • Airports are gateways to the city they serve
  • For UK residents, homecoming starts at the airport. Brands become part of a positive returning home mind-set
  • You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Engage strongly with adverts – high propensity to buy/sell
  • For visitors to the country, advertising provides reassurance and familiarity, help and guidance
  • 30% of passengers buy goods from duty free in arrivals

UK’s top airport advertisers are from a narrow group

OMC's final slide, 15, is a factual presentation of the Top 50 advertisers who invested in Airports 2013 (presumably in the UK, the slide does not specify), with an average spend of GBP802,000 (USD1.19 million).

They are: Bank of America, British Airways, Vodafone, Samsung, Estée Lauder Cosmetics, Burberry, Nissan, Emirates, easyJet, ICBC London, Accenture, Turkish Airlines, Stansted Express, Cathay Pacific Airways, Chanel Ltd, LVMH Watches and Jewellery, Heathrow Express, Oracle Corporation UK, HP, Aberdeen Asset Management, Parfums Christian Dior (UK) Ltd, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Toshiba, SAP, Statoil, L'Oréal Luxury Products, O2, Apple, Lycamobile, RBS, Etihad Airways, Skyteam, Microsoft, Allianz, Marriott Hotels, L'Oréal Paris, Acer, First Capital Connect, Jet2, Gatwick Express, Qatar National Bank, American Express Europe, National Express, LogMein, Gucci, Citibank, Salvatore Ferragamo, BP, Norwegian Air, Right Move Ltd.

Of these, 10 are airlines or alliances, six surface travel providers, one hotel group, nine finance houses, 11 CIT companies, nine luxury goods providers, three industrials and one estate agent.

For the final part of the report, CAPA co-operated with UK-based Eye Airports, one of a number of airport-focused advertising companies in the UK and Europe that also include J C Decaux, Clear Channel Airports (and subsidiary Interspace), OOH International, Media Q and others, as well as individual advertising departments within an airport organisation, such as at London Heathrow. Eye Airports was originally the UK operation of the Australian company Eye Corp. It was acquired by and subsequently merged with Airport Partners in 2013.

Eye Airports has contracts with 23 UK airports for the delivery of on-site advertising, the largest being the Manchester Airports Group and London Gatwick Airport.

Airport advertising is merely symptomatic of an increasingly complex business

Just as airport car parking has evolved into a complex business that transcends the mere positioning of metal and rubber in a space, so is there is a science to airport advertising.

What is noticeable in a visit to one of those airports (Manchester) is actually the lack of advertising. There is no comparison with surface transport such as, say, the London Underground or other similar mass transit schemes, which are often covered with fixed poster-style advertising on platforms, on escalators and on the trains themselves. Advertising at airports is far more selective and less ‘cluttered’.

In fact at Manchester the feature that is more evident to the (human) eye is blank walls, within the terminal buildings, in ancillary buildings such as The Station (a transport interchange for rail, tram bus and coach) and in the connecting ‘skylinks’ between them. (The skylinks have been used for advertising purposes as demonstrated below but were not during the author’s visit).

Skylink inter-terminal walkway (T1 - The Station – T3) repetitive advertising

The impression is gained that a lack of clutter will permit greater emphasis on the larger advertisements that are now placed in positions that would previously not have been considered.

This is most apparent with two advertisements at the entrance/exit to Terminal 3, which is marginally the main business terminal, housing British AirwaysHeathrow flights, Air France, KLM, Flybe and American Airlines in addition to Ryanair. A large banner advert there for Virgin Atlantic (which flies to Orlando, Las Vegas, and Barbados, and which has recently taken over the Atlanta service from shareholder Delta Airlines, is affixed to the side of the terminal car park and within vision of virtually all terminal users. The advertisement clearly targets BA/AA passengers.

Banner advertising on car park at T3

Fixed external bridge advertising T3

A second T3 advertisement, for telecommunications company O2, is placed across the bridge between the car par and the terminal building. As there is a one way system in place this location is visible to all drivers and the majority of passengers using the terminal as both the exit and the inter-terminal walkway to T1/T3 are close by the advert. The converse of this external advertisement is an internal one that runs the length of the bridge on both sides, some 25m x 2m, and which promotes Wales as a vacation destination.

Otherwise, advertising within T3 is limited – there are no adverts within the T3 arrivals area for example - and where there are elsewhere it is highly targeted with airlines, luxury car dealerships and finance companies being the main beneficiaries. Digital adverts overhead the check-in areas and four large hanging banners promoting KLM are the main airline messages, together with a large digital advertisement for the finance house Investec, which is strategically located between check-in and security/gates. (See slide 11 above for comment, this advertisement specifically promotes finance deals).

The paucity of advertisements is even more noticeable within the Terminal 1 check-in area. T1 is a mixed terminal of legacy airlines (e.g. Lufthansa, SAS), LCCs and hybrids (e.g. Aer Lingus, Jet2.com, easyJet) and charter flights, mainly by Thomas Cook. Advertising is focused on a digital screen above the entrance to the immigration and security area and which rotates through a variety of organisations including the telecommunications company 3.co.uk. This screen also carries public information notices.

It is un-missable and the location has clearly been chosen for its impact in delivering messages that remind passengers of purchases they may have overlooked. There is limited dwell time in this area of course and messages must be sharp and to the point. Indeed there is no seating here (there was before the terminal was revamped for security reasons).

Manchester Airport's long haul terminal advertising focusses on vacations

Terminal 2 is Manchester’s main long-haul terminal, used by Delta, Virgin Atlantic, US Airways, United, one of the Gulf airlines (Qatar AirwaysEmirates and Etihad have their own facilities in T1), Cathay Pacific, SIA, PIA and others. It also houses the other main charter airline/tour operator, Thomson and numerous short haul carriers. For that reason advertising might be expected subtly to change to reflect a higher concentration of long haul passengers. That is the case, and it is even more focused.

The only advertisements are placed on the ‘towers’ holding lift shafts that were constructed when the infrastructure shifted from being landside based to airside based in the aftermath of the planned ‘liquids/gels terrorist attacks in 2006. They are for all-inclusive long-haul vacations offered by Thomson Holidays and its subsidiary, First Choice.

Tower (lift shaft) adverts, Terminal 2

So far we have dealt only with the land-side. The pattern is similar air-side (beyond immigration) but with several key differences. The emphasis remains on a lack of clutter and strategic placement. The philosophy is that there are plenty of opportunities across the three terminals, without employing ‘overkill’ and that an important part of the equation is to maintain a relaxed environment as far as possible.

The image below is of The Drum, a ceiling-suspended device in the panoramic business lounge in the departures area of T3, which again features a finance house promotion. There is no other branded advertising visible in this shot, ensuring that flight departure screens remain visible from as many angles as possible.

The Drum suspended advertising T3 departures

Luxury goods dominate advertising in the vicinity of airline lounges

The next image is also of targeted advertising to business passengers, at the entrance to the Emirates, Etihad and Escape (multi-airline) lounges in T1. These lounges host many of the First Class passengers at Manchester and advertiser selection is heavily influenced by that fact.

In the example below, on what is known in the trade as a digital six-sheet (a high definition portrait screen displaying premium quality images and animated content) the advertiser is a BMW car servicing and valeting company. Another recent advertiser was the luxury fashion company Mulberry.

Digital six-sheet advertising position at entrance to airline lounges

The final image in this category is of ‘light box’ advertising in the main air-side retail area in T1. Manchester Airport spent GBP80 million revamping this area and shifting concessions airside after the 2006 terrorist alert and subsequent liquids and gels regulations.

It is one of the most intensive retail areas of any UK airport with a myriad of messages facing the passenger immediately he or she exits the immigration and security area. Care has been taken not to confuse individual retailers’ advertising with that of companies that are not represented at the airport (in this case Jaguar Motors). Dwell time in this area can be lengthy but there is heavy competition for passengers’ attention so advertisements must be large and have the ability to gain instant attention.

T1 air-side retail area

In the baggage carousel area there is probably the greatest opportunity to convey a message in the sense that it is the part of the airport with the greatest amount of dwell time with very little else for passengers to do other than read advertisements while they wait. And the wait for baggage can be a long one – and seem longer - at any airport.

The image below is of the baggage hall (terminal unknown) featuring multiple baggage carousel screens carrying the same message.

Baggage hall advertising

Baggage hall advertising can promote products more appropriate to home

The message in this image is not clear but the screens can be used for a very wide range of them. One ‘downside’ of advertising in this environment is that many of the passengers will be returning vacationers whose mood is low, especially if they are returning to a long cold British winter from a vacation in a warmer climate. While this scenario might invite promotions for ‘the next vacation’ they can also be highly productive for the promotion of more mundane services or goods.

For example British Gas’ Hive, which permits control of domestic heating and hot water systems from a mobile/smart phone, tablet or laptop, ran flight-related copy through baggage carousel screens that was relevant to the origin of the passenger. Other brands have prompted in-store purchases by being situated in proximity to an airport concession.

One other potential prominent advertising space is to be found outside the physical infrastructure, namely in and around surface car parks. Passengers tend to move rapidly into and out of surface car parks (unless they are waiting for a shuttle bus) so locating a prime position is of the essence. At Manchester there is one particular site, on a roundabout close to a terminal-proximate car park that is the location of the car valet parking enterprise, and is also within view of passengers using the skylink between T1 and The Station and from the M56 (motorway) spur road. For this reason it is popular.

It comprises three independent illuminated boards arranged as a triangle. The current occupier is Singapore Airlines, which promotes the airline, its own business class and the tourist board independently on the three sides. (No image available).

Many campaigns cover both land-side and air-side advertising across multiple airports (for example MAG, where there are four airports in the group). At Manchester the large T3 banner advert referred to earlier is a popular external site on which to host an initial, impactful brand message and then to follow the message through inside the terminal buildings. This policy has been adopted by O2 for example.

Airport advertising, a test bed for technology

Airport advertising has changed dramatically and there is much truth in the suggestion that it has become a test bed for technology that can be applied in other environments. An example of this can be found at London Gatwick Airport where the British retailer Tesco created the first virtual supermarket store where customers could view a range of everyday products on Eye Airports’ media, scan the barcodes via smart phones and book a home delivery slot for their return to the UK.

Tesco claimed to have reached 3,000 new customers a day during the campaign, which achieved 135,000 ‘touches,’ and the average dwell time was four minutes.

Tesco virtual supermarket, London Gatwick Airport

Reducing all this down to basic psychology the thinking in the advertising business is that the mindset of trying something new is what vacations deliver, and the vacation begins at the airport.

That sounds simplistic but for many people there is truth in it.

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