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IT Last modified on November 3, 2013

Going mobile

Ever-inventive brands are using smartphones to connect with passengers at airports and on almost every stage of their journey, writes Jeremy Corfield.

Free airport Wi-Fi is widespread, inflight connectivity is on the increase, and airlines, airports and airport retailers communicate with passengers via apps and mobile-optimised sites.

The mobile journey starts with researching travel, and increasingly, it continues with booking via mobile. Travellers use mobiles before their journey, at the airport, and at their destination.

There are numerous statistics showing airports providing innovation in mobile connections, having huge numbers of Twitter followers and receiving many thousands of Facebook and Foursquare check-ins.

However, one area of the airport commercial space that is yet to see widespread engagement with mobile phones is airport advertising.

That’s starting to change, with airport advertising businesses improving their investment in mobile solutions, and brands and agencies beginning to experiment more broadly.

As with any advertising, airport advertising must be relevant, timely and accessible. In an airport setting, this means giving passengers an engaging experience, and taking a mobile-centric approach can really help to achieve that.

People have clear preferences for the technologies they use, and the way they use them. The mobile experience is now very intuitive, and that’s because most people customise their mobile use and behaviours to their own needs.

They choose the device, plan, apps and tools that work for them. So advertisers and airports that recognise this – and reflect it in their offer – will be the most successful.

Interactive and mobile advertising can play a meaningful role in improving the customer experience in an airport, by giving passengers a fun, valuable, rewarding or memorable moment that boosts their enjoyment of the travel experience.

Three recent airport campaigns encapsulate the value of brands, agencies and airport advertising companies working together to deliver interesting and engaging experiences for passengers.

Nice Cote d’Azur Airport – TOTAL

In the lead-up to the Monaco Grand Prix earlier this year, TOTAL delivered a fantastic experiential campaign at Nice Cote d’Azur Airport.

As well as two simulators fitted with the F1 computer game, passengers could visit a ‘green screen’ to have their photos taken ‘with’ Romain Grosjean.

They could collect a print, or upload the image to social media via their own phones or using iPads placed around the stand, which also featured other games and a competition. Additionally, hostesses were on-hand to provide support and answer questions.

A key aspect of this campaign was the integration of the interactive experience within a broader campaign that reached the passenger at several points on their journey.

The campaign started at the station with floor media, adgates and train cards, then built further through check-in, to departures, and on to the gate. This was complemented with advertising on Nice Airport’s free Wi-Fi pages, boarding passes and culminated in onboard media on seatback tables and in inflight magazines.

This is a great example of how the full strength of the airport environment can be leveraged; with a true understanding of the audience and how they use the airport, a strong campaign can achieve maximum impact.

What can airports learn from this campaign? Delivering entertaining and engaging experiential campaigns in an airport is a complex business.

A high-profile promotional space, qualified airside staff, data, power and free Wi-Fi had to be available. It also required a robust media inventory with the ability to trace the passenger journey, allowing the advertiser to build awareness and excitement about the experiential zone prior to passengers arriving.

Clearly there is direct commercial benefit in terms of media income from a campaign like this, but the broader airport benefit is the highlight they have helped create in the passenger journey and the social and word-of-mouth chatter the campaign generated.


UK airports – O2

Some of the UK’s busiest airports were the perfect platform for a pan-regional, cross-media campaign by O2 promoting their European data-roaming offer.

Timed to coincide with the peak summer holiday period, this campaign was mobile-enabled, and at Manchester and Gatwick airports, was totally integrated with the airports’ digital walls.

As well as being able to enter a competition, passengers could also upload and edit photos for real-time viewing via Instagram and Twitter, using #O2Travel. The O2 Travel campaign ran at major UK airports, the Euro Star and Euro Tunnel.

Again, passengers were targeted at key touch-points in their entire journey. This started with branded boarding passes along with floor media at London rail stations feeding the major airport train express services, vinyl-wrapped ticket gates and airport express train cards.

It continued through to every touch point at the airport from drop-off and check-in to departure gate, using small format digital screens alongside giant standout lightboxes. Media also included branding on the airports’ free internet stations and on the Wi-Fi landing pages.

With some 15,000 interactions per week in Manchester and Gatwick alone, it’s clear that this campaign resonated with the travelling public by ‘giving something back’.

Passengers had a real-time opportunity to do something fun and simple, and by making the campaign mobile-focused, O2 ensured that the campaign reached people off-airport via social media as well as the primary on-airport target audiences.

For this campaign to have real scale, and to justify the investment in creative time and cost, a multi-airport buy was a must for the advertiser. Having an agile and outcome-focused airport advertising company, and a specialist airport planning agency were very important factors in bringing the O2 client vision to life.

The campaign also required a consistent and flexible approach from the airports involved. Logistics needed to be manageable, and that necessitated a broadly consistent offering from airport to airport.

Manchester and Gatwick, in particular, have taken a long-term view in making valuable airside space available for large-scale interactive touch walls.

Australian airports – GOOGLE

A recent world-first airport advertising programme by Google is a great example of airports and their advertising partners acting as enablers for truly interesting, engaging and relevant activity in the terminal.

The campaign for the Google Play Store allowed passengers to use their mobile phones as remote control devices, taking control of 39 digital advertising panels at Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney airports.

As well as interacting with Google Play Store content, Android phone users could also then download selected books, movies, music, magazines and apps directly to their phone using free Wi-Fi.

This campaign is a fantastic example of how airport advertising with a mobile focus can deliver genuine value and benefit to passengers.

Several important building blocks were put in place to enable delivery of this programme:

  • The airport advertising concessionaire invested heavily in a substantial estate of digital displays across a number of airports
  • Their airport partners encouraged this investment, and provided access to high-impact advertising locations throughout the terminal
  • The airport put free Wi-Fi in place. It’s unlikely this campaign would have been so effective if passengers had been asked to pay for the Wi-Fi service
  • In each of these three case studies, there are clear themes. Preparation and a strategic outlook from the airports was vital. Airport advertising businesses with commitment and access to capital were central.

    The importance of good creative ideas (and the drive of agencies) is clear to see, but without the inclusion of a mobile-centric, customer-driven mindset, focused on delivering something valuable, entertaining and memorable to the passenger, these campaigns would have been less remarkable.

    Thinking about, and focusing on, the connected traveller can help airports deliver an enjoyable in-terminal experience, which passengers will remember and want to tell their friends about.

    About the author

    Jeremy Corfield is director of Concession Planning International Australia Pty Ltd.

    He can be contacted at or www.concession-planning.com

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