Steve Cox: the marketing director at JCDecaux Airport UK
Steve Cox: the marketing director at JCDecaux Airport UK
A view from Steve Cox

Airports in the spotlight

The marketing director at JCDecaux Airport UK reports on how big increases in airline passengers have driven innovation in the out of home sector.

So here we are then, back at work, no Bank Holidays for four months, Christmas cards already in the shops, and festive client lunches somehow finding their way into the diary.

That summer break already seems a distant memory for the millions of Brits who this year chose to escape the UK's summer downpours for sunnier climes.

Those that did jet off abroad will once again have experienced the inevitable sense of anticipation and excitement we all feel at the airport, still a sensation familiar to even the most hardened frequent-flying business travel veterans. There's always something special about being in an airport however often we fly.

And this summer we've perhaps seen the airport more under the microscope than usual, both in the national and trade press arena.

The Davies Commission report was finally published in early July, unanimously concluding that the proposal for a new northwest runway at Heathrow, combined with a significant package of measures to address its environmental and community impacts, presents the strongest case and offers the greatest strategic and economic benefits.

Expect plenty more column inches between now and the end of the year as debate hots up in Parliament over whether to adopt the recommendation.

Closer to home we've seen stories about potential new entrants to the world of airport OOH advertising sales. The airport advertising is a hugely important element of the JCDecaux UK's OOH portfolio, but I can obviously only speculate on why the environment is attracting interest from other media players.

Perhaps in part it's due to the spectacular increase in the airport audience, which, ultimately, is what we're all selling. First and foremost it's about the people, not the panels.

UK airports have just delivered the highest rolling 12 month passenger total since records began. In the past four quarters 243.9 million passengers departed and arrived at all reporting UK airports.

August this year was Edinburgh's busiest month ever, and Glasgow recorded its busiest July for seven years so clearly plenty of us did somehow manage to find some holiday sun this year after all.

Of course, the media value inherent in this audience growth is thrown into even sharper focus by the challenges planners are experiencing when seeking elusive consumers elsewhere.

Print readership continues to fall, and apparently linear TV viewing figures are likely to drop worldwide for the first time next year, with online video consumption set to rise by 23.3 per cent in 2015, according to a report by ZenithOptimedia. Which would be fine if online offered a suitable alternative platform, but in parallel we're also hearing more about the increasing threats posed to online and mobile advertising by the proliferation of ad-blocking technology.

In its own way, the airport has witnessed digital proliferation of an entirely different kind, and is now a highly "digitised" out of home environment. Again, summer headlines have highlighted the increasing use of airport data to tailor advertising messages, with the recent Heathrow Express campaign incorporating feeds from five different sources to drive the real-time content displayed on the screens.

And there's no way to 'ad-block' those displays whilst waiting for your bag to emerge on the carousel.

This capacity for dynamic data feeds to influence display on DOOH screens will surely take the medium to the next level, generating still higher levels of media attention. But we'll be missing a trick if we settle for that.

Creative as well as media agencies should recognise the as yet unrealised potential to match content to context in their executions – and it's our job to help them.

So perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that airports are well and truly in the headlines, and seem set to stay there for the foreseeable future.

Norman Foster once described them as symbolic gateways to a country, and increasingly they're also being recognised as effective gateways to media effectiveness.

Steve Cox is the marketing director at JCDecaux Airport UK