In line with global trends around out-of-home media spend, advertising in the airport environment has increased and is set to grow further in the years ahead.

There are a number of reasons for this, says Mzukisi Deliwe, deputy CEO of Provantage Media Group, but two main characteristics that are particular to airport media are key: the amount of dwell time, and the existence of convergence zones (nodes of transport interchange). These factors make airports a niche and desirable advertising environment.

Airport advertising works so effectively, says Deliwe, because it plays to “a high-end captive audience” and long dwell times ensure that this audience is receptive.

He says OR Tambo International Airport alone has a captive audience of 20m travellers a year, excluding consumers who frequent the airport for other reasons. Each year, 41m passengers use Airports Company SA airports across the country, an increase of 14% since 2013.

“The average dwell time for domestic travellers is 1 hour 22 minutes, while international-travel dwell times have increased, with passengers expected to be at the airport three hours prior to departure,” says Deliwe. “The latter leads to increased engagement, with the result that 30% of travellers visit a website or download an app related to advertising on airport media.”

Airport media influences frequent-flyers’ behaviour, he adds, with 80% of passengers noticing airport advertising, 42% taking action (for example, by engaging with the brand’s social media) and 19% buying a product advertised at the airport. “In other words, airport advertising creates brand awareness and sales by reaching, and engaging with, highly desirable audiences, including the frequent flyer and the key business decision maker,” he says.

The big take-out

Airport travellers’ state of mind depends on whether they are departing or arriving; there is a science behind the advertising offered at each of these points.

Furthermore, airports offer an immersive environment in which brands have the opportunity to allow consumers to experience their product. American Express Canada, for example, has used its member rewards programme to entice travellers to sign up for its exclusive platinum card. The credit card provides users with a combination of acquisition media, such as experience zones, free Wi-Fi and two acquisition kiosks at the airport. Applications for the card have increased by 51%.

Airport advertising, compared with other media, yields the lowest waste, says Deliwe. “This is a highly targeted environment where every advertising medium has been strategically placed. There is a science behind not only what is advertised at each point, but also which platforms are utilised for maximum impact.  At arrival point, big, bold static media is most effective due to short dwell times, while in luggage collection, digital plays an increased role.” 

At the point of departure, he adds, travellers are in a more relaxed state of mind, with extended dwell times. In this environment, digital screens offering airport TV can play a key role. “The correct selective placement of advertising and platforms is key to maximising impact and recall.”

Mobile technology has brought many benefits to the broader out-of-home environment, and to airports in particular. “We are now in a position where we are able to measure consumption ‘by moment’,” says Deliwe. “Mobile location technology allows us to calculate location, consumption, duration, content type and even demographic profiles.”

In a constrained economy, brands are under pressure to ensure that their marketing spend is maximised to yield the best possible return on investment. This means building brand awareness, minimising advertising waste, and pinpointing consumer targeting and brand recall – all with a view to retaining engaged consumers while driving prospective customers into the marketing conversion funnel. Airport media, says Deliwe, can deliver on all these requirements.