Why Airports Are OOH’s Next Big Thing

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It is hard to imagine London’s Piccadilly Circus or New York’s Times Square without its iconic screens. Both have become globally recognisable tourist hotspots thanks to their use of eye-catching DOOH and their sheer size. What if this iconic phenomenon was achieved on a similar level in some of the world’s largest airports?

New York’s Times Square has an estimated footfall of 1.05million a week, Piccadilly Circus 2million a week. Compare that to Heathrow’s 1.46million a week and it’s clear to see the opportunities. The numbers for airports are attractive, not least for advertisers trying to increase their general brand awareness via impact and mass audience reach.

But let’s go back to basics: why should you use OOH advertising? On average, people are spending 25% (Gov, 2015) more time outdoors than they did 25 years ago. OOH offers the public a dynamic form of media. It delivers effective marketing messages to a broadcast audience which consumers find hard to ignore.

The industry is worth over $38bn (Roux, 2015) and this will only grow as media owners increase their data collection and analysis capabilities, allowing advertising clients to better understand their consumers’ needs, tailoring their ads to these preferences and increasing their ROI.

Bluetooth beacons on advertising structures, facial recognition and Wi-Fi all give firms access to data, including individuals’ online browsing behaviour and shopping history (Tan, 2016), technology that airports are already using and reaping the benefits of.

But why are airport passengers such a good audience to capture?

Think back to some of your trips to the airport, the time you spent there, how you were feeling and what you were doing. Think about all the different areas you went through to get to your final destination.

Airports are fantastic places to reach out to a large, often upmarket target audience. They offer significant dwell time for brands to engage with, with passengers spending an average of 70-80min in the departure lounges. This excludes the other important dwell time spent at other points of their journey: travelling to and from the airport, waiting in departures and arrivals areas, going through check-in, security, browsing in the retail and leisure zones, relaxing in the business and first class lounges, waiting at the boarding gates. Every single point of the journey is an opportunity to engage with the consumer.

Airports also create an optimum consumer mind-set with a captive, relaxed and happy audience. They are seeking stimulation and are often more receptive to it, which – with a mostly affluent audience, consisting of both business and leisure passengers with a willingness to spend – means big opportunities for brands.

No wonder luxury shopping names like Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Hermes; and high-street favourites like Cath Kidston, Ted Baker and Accessorize have all set camp in the departure areas of high traffic airports like Heathrow T5, recently voted ‘World’s Best Airport for Shopping’. High-end dining names like Caviar House and Fortnum & Mason Champagne Bar; and restaurant chains like Wagamama, Nando’s and Wetherspoon’s are also reaping the benefits. In fact, Wetherspoon’s at Gatwick is the highest-grossing branch in the UK. Similarly, Dixon’s at the same airport is the retailer’s top site in terms of consumer spend.

But what does the future hold for advertising in airports? Airports worldwide are investing in expansion and redevelopment of their facilities. London City Airport, well-known for its high concentration of business passengers, has invested £344m to expand its existing infrastructure and handle a 39.5% increase in passengers. Dubai has invested nearly $8bn in an expansion project due to end 2020. Gatwick Airport is increasing its connection between the UK and existing and emerging global markets resulting in a £1bn investment. Shanghai’s recent expansion targeted further increase in capacity from 9.6m to 40m passengers in 2015.

On-going and future airport developments will attract more passengers in numbers and more affluent travellers in terms of willingness to spend. For advertisers, this means more opportunities to showcase their products, more opportunities to reach-out to larger audiences and ultimately more ROI.

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