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NEWS Last modified on November 23, 2016

BLOG: The appeal of airport advertising in the UK

The UK government’s go-ahead of Heathrow’s third runway has delivered a succinct and clear message to global brands and advertisers – that the UK is open for business, writes Tom Perrett.

The move has provided another strong boost to the out-of-home (OOH) advertising sector, which is enjoying something of a landmark year, with ad spend up to £273m in Q2, a 9.6% increase year-on-year (Advertising Association/Warc Expenditure Report).

Despite a backdrop of economic uncertainty, the UK airport media landscape is in rude health, with exciting developments including the recent acquisition of Airport Media by OOH media operator, Primesight, and landmark sites such as JCDecaux’s Digital Towers, currently wowing passengers in Heathrow's Terminal 5.

The future is bright for advertisers looking to take advantage of airports’ unique and consistently growing audiences and Heathrow’s third runway will create opportunities not just for West London, but all UK airports.
With many UK-based passengers typically driving to Heathrow airport from afar, the third runway will see an improvement of UK air-links, increasing advertising reach in regional airports. Media opportunities will improve, and offer a wider network of digital sites across all media owners.

But change won’t happen overnight. Given the opening of the new terminal and runway is likely to be at least ten years away, what’s important to consider is the advancement of technology and the likely implementation of groundbreaking hardware integrated into the architecture by that time.

It’s anticipated that in 2026, through vastly increased computing processing power and more easily accessible data sets, the opportunities available to airport advertisers will most likely be multi-sensory, integrated, ultra-targeted communications, far beyond what’s available today.

Through this development, brands will find a way to be a seamless part of the traveller’s experience.

Brands that understand the new customer journey will have an opportunity to reach airport passengers with the right message at the right time.

Targeting will go beyond the airport as those travelling by train to catch a flight could be served with ads for holiday insurance, while arrivals to the UK could be targeted with car hire promotions.

Within the airport space, advertisers need to be flexible and offer something new and enticing to consumers. This can be achieved in a number of ways; from contextual targeting to full-on experiential brand experiences.
Tech innovations such as Bluetooth beacons, facial recognition and enhanced connectivity are already changing the game, providing key data for airports and advertisers.

At Aviator we are working towards seamless communications that incorporate multiple traveller touchpoints, from booking, all the way through departure and arrival points to the destination itself.

Advertisers should also be sensitive to the mindset borne out of the unique airport environment. Consumers are both enjoying down time away from the daily routine, and simultaneously anticipating the excitement of a departure.

This unique state of mind, combined with dwell time, opens up opportunities for brands to offer key life moment purchases, for example a new car or mortgage.

But digital screens in airports shouldn’t just be about advertising, they should also find ways to add value to the traveller’s experience – that could be flight information or smart tech to reduce queuing time at security.
As with the Heathrow expansion, OOH media within the airport environment is opening up a world of opportunities. 

Brands and advertisers now have the chance to push the barriers of what’s achievable. Airports currently deliver a hugely valuable environment for interactivity and innovation. In just ten years’ time, the possibilities will be endless.

• Tom Perrett is head of client operations EMEA for Aviator at Kinetic Worldwide.

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