Marketers target fliers roaming airports

NEW YORK -- Advertisers including Accenture, Orbitz and Microsoft Xbox will greet the Thanksgiving throng of air travelers with flashy, interactive, high-definition airport advertising.

The companies that control the wall spaces and displays in the country's 500 commercial airports have been upgrading their offerings from static posters and billboards to digital displays marketers are using to spew news, talk to people or blast music and images.

This week they'll compete for the attention of the 27 million people the Air Transport Association estimates will travel by air Nov. 16-27.

"The digital medium is in its infancy in out-of-home advertising," says Bernard Parisot, CEO of ad company JCDecaux North America. "We are working with advertisers to find the best ways to use this medium to make the most out of it."

Airport advertising is on the rise, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA).

"Airports have a captive audience," says Steve Freitas, vice president of marketing for OAAA. "The content can be a little deeper and richer because consumers have more time to stop, which makes storytelling more compelling."

That audience also is captive far longer that in the past: Parisot estimates people average two hours in commercial airports before flights depart, double the time before the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"When you are departing and have to go through security, you spend a lot more time than you used to," he says. "Airports are much more attractive to advertisers because they have more time to communicate with their target audience.

Taking flight with digital ads:

*Xbox. More than a million people a month move through an underground, 600-foot corridor in Terminal 9 at New York's John F. Kennedy International. Microsoft has lined the tunnel with 7,000 square feet of advertising created by ad buyer Universal McCann in San Francisco. The space includes 40 Samsung 70-inch, high-definition screens and 100 speakers and has featured campaigns for Vista and Office PC software, but Friday a campaign for Xbox 360 went up for the holidays. "If you can make it a fun experience, the audience is like, 'Holy cow,' and we are, like, 'We gotcha.'" says Robert Martin, Universal McCann group communications director.

*Orbitz. A campaign by the travel service company touts TLC, a service for mobile devices that provides airport and weather updates and tips from other passengers.

To promote the service rolled out in September, Orbitz has ads on digital screens that show people sitting in an airport. When a traveler stands in front of the ad, a sensor causes the person in the ad to stand up and talk about TLC. Displays are in Houston, Miami and Orlando airports.

"The ads are physically engaging," says Randy Susan Wagner, chief marketing officer. The interaction "gets attention and provides entertainment, and that's really important."

*Accenture. Interactive 7-foot-by-10-foot displays are in Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and JFK. They are housed in giant custom frames and use graphics and touch-screen technology to let people choose to watch news, weather or sports. Accenture spokesman Tiger Woods is featured, and the displays also offer stories and stats about Woods.

"The high-definition, on-demand video screens let people watch content that they choose," says Teresa Poggenpohl, head of global advertising and brand management. "We all get stuck at the airport. It's engaging and enables our target audience to interact with our brand."

A plus for Accenture: An in-house tech team created the software, so the ad promotes Accenture and shows what it can do. "It's a powerful demonstration of the innovation that we bring to our clients," Poggenpohl says.

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