Airports, Airlines Step Up OOH Interactivity

When Monster Media recently installed four giant interactive displays at Los Angeles International Airport on behalf of JCDecaux North America, it was the first of its kind for the airport—and also the latest indication that digital out-of-home is breaking the sound barrier in the air travel space.  

“We now have about 22 systems in U.S. airports, and an additional 15 to 20 will go in before the end of the year,” says John Payne, president of Monster. The company’s interactive campaigns in airports have included displays where Travelers Insurance umbrellas multiply and contract as people walk by, and where snow blows across giant bottles of Coors Lite in a similar fashion.

Media networks are increasingly finding new ways to lure air travelers with digital opportunities, from large networks of LED and LCD screens in airports to Wi-Fi access promotions to commercials on seat-back TV screens within the planes themselves.

“The economy has offered us new opportunities that weren’t approved by the airports before. Some of the larger international ones are open to very different types of business,” says Pam Horn, national sales manager for Clear Channel Airports.

Horn refers to an increasing number of airports that are receptive to the kind of large displays that Monster installs—allowing for gesture and text message interactivity. Often, that requires placement in areas that previously weren’t utilized before. Between the new digital boards and a wider variety of places to install static promotions, including security bins and baggage carousel wraps, “we’ve increased the number of product offerings in airports fivefold over the last few years,” Horn says.

Jean-Luc Decaux, co-CEO of JCDecaux North America, notes a big change in the last six months. “[Advertisers] are much more excited about digital platforms. They know how to use them and make a better creative fit,” he says.

Decaux notes a recent campaign from IBM Lotus software, which ran in the two New York City airports, as well as in Boston  Logan and Orlando. It used boards in gate areas that gave weather updates. So when a gate was being used to board a flight to Miami, climate data for that city would appear on a nearby sign, and the info changed throughout the day, matching up with other flight destinations. “Software provided by Lotus gives you the ability to this kind of core stuff,” says Decaux.

“That’s the future, in terms of relevancy solutions,” says Eric Bottema, director of Kinetic’s Aviator North America specialist agency, in speaking of the Lotus campaign. Bottema notes that air travelers are largely affluent decision makers and influencers. “It’s hard to reach this audience in general, and they are constantly on the move,” he says. What better time to reach them than when they’re captive in a concourse or on a plane for hours on end?

JiWire is using just that rationale to lure more clients. The company serves as an advertising representative for wireless carriers, and its coverage includes 80 U.S. airports. David Staas, JiWire’s svp of marketing, explains that clients have the opportunity to give customers free Wi-Fi access to specific sites that promote advertiser products and services. Or they can offer consumers free, full access to the Web if they view certain promotional material.

For example, in second-quarter 2009, Hyatt Hotels offered free Wi-Fi access on Wednesdays if viewers took a virtual tour of Hyatt’s hotels. The campaign ran nationally, primarily in airports, and it received a whopping 39 percent click-through rate, according to Staas, who notes average banner click-through rates are less than 1 percent.

RMG Networks steers consumers in a similar fashion. The company reps ad avails within in-flight entertainment systems for several airlines. RMG Net’s CEO, Garry McGuire, points to a campaign for the fledgling ABC series Modern Family that ran on JetBlue from Aug. 15 to Sept. 14 last year. A promo was televised directly after the airline safety message, alerting viewers to watch a sneak preview of the program, which ran on the default channel that viewers have access to before others become available. According to McGuire, 43 percent of the passengers engaged with the default channel, as opposed to surfing to other video options (vs. a norm of 20 percent).

More opportunities are poised to take off, so to speak. McGuire says video on demand will become available on planes in less than a year, with ads that can’t be skipped.
When it comes to the out-of-home airport venue, it seems the sky’s the limit.