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Brands looking to reach out to business professionals need look no further than the nation’s hustling bustling (and struggling) airports.
A dwindling air travel industry has forced airlines to consider alternative revenue which means that even with the heightened state of home security brands are allowed into terminals gates and lounges—and audiences are more captive than ever. “Plain and simple airports have turned into excellent places for events ” says Heather Cooney product manager with Microsoft Corp. which just wrapped a six-month airport program that introduced business travelers to its Tablet PC (Agency: Jack Morton Worldwide New York City).

The software company first dabbled in airports last fall to generate buzz for the Tablet prior to a February ad campaign rollout but extended the program into June after finding success. From 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday Tablet PC crews set up in terminals with sexy displays and staffers offering demonstrations. A total of 120 000 demos were given (Denver Airport even requested them for its 1 100 employees).

Logistically airport program development is frustrating. There is no regulatory agency setting airport standards. Instead each has its own rules and regulations about where a brand can be how you staff an event program and what’s allowed and what isn’t. “Airports are a pain in the ass and you can quote me ” says Jack Morton account manager Pat McClellan. “But the target demographic is very attractive and the captivity of them allows you to interact with consumers.”

The profile of the typical air traveler according to a Mendelsohn Affluence Survey: Sixty-four percent male 65 percent between the ages of 35 and 54 60 percent come from a home with an income in excess of $100 000 68 percent have a post-college degree and 87 percent are married. Eighty-nine percent own a cell phone and 62 percent drive an import automobile.

Pick the right airports. The Airports Council International housed everything you ever wanted to know about airports at Check out traffic figures flight information traveler data and which terminals are busier than others in each market. Tip: Go with hub airports (see chart pg. 34) because you’ll get a national sampling of traffic that won’t repeat on you (traffic changes often enough that you can be there for several months and not run into the same traveler twice).

Get the space. Two companies (Clear Channel Airport and JCDecaux) control the majority of terminal real estate which is generally priced the same whether an ad is being put up or event space is being secured. Get in touch and tell them what you want. Sales are down and they’ll be anxious to talk. Ballpark costs are around $200 to $400 per day based on a per-month buy. “From a pricing perspective putting up an exhibit or event is basically comparable to putting up an ad ” says McClellan. “It can be a challenge but price is negotiable.”

Staff up. It will take between two and six weeks to get your field staff approved for admittance into airports (guerrilla marketers who crash will be arrested). Because the team will likely be stationed beyond the security area (and they won’t have boarding passes) there will be extensive background checks and fingerprinting. That means you better know your crew before handing in the application—one bad egg can get the whole program rejected by the airport. You may also be required to submit a campaign deck and architectural renderings of exhibits.

Follow etiquette. Airport rules mandate you wait for consumers to approach you not the other way around. So get creative and make the program visually appealing. Establish eye contact with travelers early and lure them in. “If there’s no ‘wow’ or new factor people will keep walking ” says Cooney.
No roaming allowed. A designated spot will be secured and your people must stay within the perimeter. Exhibits should be approachable and flexible enough to work near a wall at LaGuardia or between gates 4 and 5 at O’Hare. Microsoft’s set-up featured two pieces: A freestanding unit with storage in the base and signage with Tablets attached and a separate bar-height standing unit.

Find the right terminal location. Match the space with the target. If you’re looking to reach out to domestic travelers for example stay in domestic terminals. “Brands can take over existing kiosks or set up their own ” says Ed Japhe president of Newtown Square PA-based Electronic Marketing Co. “We’ve done vehicle displays events in baggage claim areas and other programs at the top of escalators.”

The most difficult programs are usually the best. Airports may be a headache during the planning process but could end up paying you back in spades during execution. “Our program created buzz for us before the media had even begun ” says Cooney. “We would head into airports again in a heartbeat.”

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