EUROPE'S MOST WANTED: TORR ON TOUR - Gordon Torr renewed his passport and cancelled the newspapers for the summer while he toured many European airports to offer a critique of the advertising on display

Before Campaign asked me to write something about airport

advertising, I'd never really thought about it. Not because I'm not

aware of it, and not because I never stop to examine it. But because

whenever I do think about it, lugging my Samsonite through the endless

burrows of Gatwick or JFK, longing for the light at the end of the

tunnel, and praying that a jumbo-full of Japanese won't beat me to

passport control, it gives me an uneasy feeling - the disquieting sense

of being an unwelcome eavesdropper on a very important conversation that

I have no business overhearing.

This is a wild guess, but I can't help getting the feeling that the

people who advertise in airports believe the typical business traveller

is a humourless systems analyst on his way to a boardroom somewhere on

the other side of the planet on the brink of making the decision to move

his multimillion-dollar account to a massive global systems provider

whose name he wasn't aware of when he left the car park five minutes

ago. What else could account for the plethora of inoffensive airport

sites devoted to making sure you won't get on the plane without having

registered the 40-feet high logos of Nortel or Compaq or Vodafone?

Because I'm not sure what systems analysts do for a living, I begin to

feel a little unwelcome in these corridors of power.

I am relieved, therefore, when I stumble into three acres of wall space

for Gucci in Nice or Valentino in Milan. I know these brands, even if I

can't afford them. I hypothesise another target - it's the systems

analyst on holiday. And he's going to hire a car. I know this from the

car stuck on the ceiling of Hamburg airport. Indeed, Sixt Rent A Car

strikes me as having some ambitious plans to capture the systems analyst

rental market because it is all over the place. There's a giant Marlboro

Man in the Hamburg departures lounge reminding me that I won't be able

to smoke for at least nine hours. Stockholm has a poster for Madonna's

latest album covering half the car park. I get the impression she's big

in Sweden.

The Zurich poster of the snowman looks nice. I'm feeling paranoid and

overheated, and I want to go there immediately, lie down in the snow and

go to sleep. What does Zurich do? Isn't that a city I went to once? HSBC

has cleverly made use of the normally featureless interior of the steel

tube that connects the airport to the plane. I sense that it is going

global. I find this strangely comforting.

The smartest thing I see is at Munich airport where Audi has reserved

parking spaces exclusively for the use of Quattro drivers - on the

vertical faces of several massive granite slabs.

Back at Gatwick airport, I notice that a company called Accenture is

sponsoring the Fast Track through immigration. This is clever


They're not just going for the systems analysts, they're going for the

really upwardly mobile, Fast Company-type systems analysts.

I have plenty of time to consider what a clever marketing move this is

as the sleepy individual at the Fast Track immigration desk processes

the jumbo-load of Japanese that arrived just before me.