AIRPORT ADVERTISING: Clients’ experience of airport ads

With their captive audiences, airports are made for advertising. Here, five companies explain how their campaigns worked for them. Richard Cook reports

With their captive audiences, airports are made for advertising. Here,

five companies explain how their campaigns worked for them. Richard Cook


Thomas Cook

Lindsey Allardyce, marketing manager, Thomas Cook

As a global foreign exchange provider with more than 100 locations in 26

countries, a presence at major travel gateways is vital to get the

Thomas Cook brand name in front of thousands of travellers every day.

Airport advertising ensures the Thomas Cook name is one of the last seen

by passengers leaving the UK and one of the first by those arriving from


Yet we can’t afford airport advertising to be just about brand

awareness. One of Thomas Cook’s objectives in advertising at gateway

sites is to channel passengers to its bureaux de change, so we have to

be creative about the way we use the medium.

Directional signage in strategic areas is key. Our Gatwick Express train

terminal site directs passengers off the train to the foreign exchange

bureau in the airport check-in. We have started to use foreign languages

on several sites, such as Japanese at Heathrow.


Heikki Norta, general manager for marketing services, Europe and Africa,


Last month we launched our combined mobile phone and personal organiser,

the Communicator, with a pan-European airport campaign centred around

exhibitions in terminals at Heathrow. There were exhibition stands in

the business lounges and at strategic points in the airports that gave

people the chance to test the product. Light boxes served as

directional signage to the launch exhibitions. While conventional

advertising helps to build awareness, touching and feeling the product

by taking it on a test run creates a genuine interest and generates the

desire to own one. So far we’ve had an extremely good response from our

core target of frequent business travellers.


James Hogan, vice-president for marketing and sales, Hertz Europe

We launched our #1 Club Gold Service for business travellers with a big

multi-media campaign across Europe, and in the UK used TV and the

business press, and, for the first time, posters and airport

advertising. We wanted to achieve brand awareness and make as big an

impact as possible so we became the first advertiser to take the ads on

the tunnel leading in and out of Heathrow. We could have gone for sites

with less impact at more airports, but Heathrow is the busiest airport

in Europe.

Normally, either side of the tunnel is taken for between six months and

a year, but the opportunity arose for us to take both ends for a couple

of months. It’s too early to say what the effectiveness of these sites

will be but we want it to support the TV work and raise awareness among


Financial Times

Ben Hughes, worldwide advertisement director, Financial Times

We first became involved in airport advertising last year, to coincide

with the international expansion plans of the Financial Times. We wanted

a fairly standard campaign that would target the major airport sites

around Europe, but then we tried to add a more creative spin to the

media buying. We did this by making sure we tailored a campaign that was

located as near as possible to the international press shops. So far we

have set up advertising spots in Amsterdam, Madrid, Brussels and Lisbon,

with further sites planned in Frankfurt, Paris and Milan. The line of

the campaign is ‘read the world’, which promotes the FT’s strength as a

world business newspaper. But basically our airport campaign is doing

three main jobs for us. First of all, it serves as brand work for our

target audience, which is one that happens to travel on business a lot;

second, the proximity of the ads to the press shops helps boost our

retail sales, and third, the high-profile positions of the ads create an

awareness and presence that is important for our other sales

initiatives, and most notably, for bulk sales to the airlines


Royal Sun Alliance

Peter Jackson, group marketing communications manager, Royal Sun


We bought the biggest poster site in Europe, at Manchester Airport, and

used it to showcase our entire body of work. To be honest, we hadn’t

really thought about using airport advertising before we were offered

this opportunity, but the more we looked at it, the more we liked the

numbers. But it was still a more marginal choice than our TV and poster

work and we wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t available at the right

price. It looks good but it is difficult to measure any kind of

effectiveness, especially if you’re not doing a direct response

campaign, and you want to improve awareness and branding. We were more

than satisfied with the ‘you’d better ring the Royal’ campaign, which

gave us a profile after being unknown in real terms and put on ten

points in prompted recall and more than that in spontaneous awareness,

but it’s difficult to work out which part is responsible.

The problem with airport advertising, as with much other advertising, is

that so much of it is just wallpaper. People have to notice something

and take a second look for it to register.

At the very least our airport work is hard to ignore, if only because of

the size of it.

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