SRQ CEO Touts Big Screen, Internal Ad Agency

May 20--MANATEE -- Airline passengers on their way to collect their bags at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport may one day have an extra-large run-in with advertisers on the escalator.

During a Monday workshop session with the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority Board of Directors, airport CEO Rick Piccolo unveiled a novel idea: Purchase and install a $400,000 supersized video screen to display ads to arriving travelers as they ride the airport's down escalator. At the same time, hire ad sales people to airport staff to sell enough ads to make SRQ's equivalent of a Jumbotron profitable.

The screen, and the advertising push would be part of the airport's new shift toward being more entrepreneurial, Piccolo said. At present, the airport earns around $100,000 a year on ads placed around the airport terminal. National media company Clear Channel sells and creates those ads, acting as the airport's de facto advertising agency.

Piccolo said the deal with Clear Channel only looks good on the surface. In his comments to the board members, he pointed out that Clear Channel earns the bulk of advertising revenues, which generate around $350,000 annually. As the airport moves toward signing a new agreement with airlines that requires the airport to share less of its revenue with the air carriers, Piccolo said high-impact advertising sold and developed inhouse stands a great chance of giving the airport a significant income stream.

While commissioners generally liked the idea of bringing more revenue into the airport, a few couldn't quite get past a video screen that Piccolo said, in a worst-case scenario, could cost between $300,000 and $400,000. Board member Carlos Beruff said the largest video screen he has seen measures 90 inches and costs comparatively little at $12,000.

"How do you go from $12,000 to $400,000?" he said. "How big is big?"

The space that could be filled with a giant video screen is about 10 feet high and 25 feet wide.

Piccolo said other size and configuration options are possible for the space, as his proposal is only "investigatory" at this point. If it became more than that, the goal for a video screen at the escalators would be to display a high-quality advertising product that would catch the attention of potential consumers. Ads could be displayed across the entire screen, tiled or scrolled. Ads currently on display in the space are static and are displayed on several backlit installations.

"This is the most visible focal point for capturing the customer," Piccolo said.

The proposal is still a long way from becoming an official action for the airport authority board to consider. Piccolo said he will write a business case for the screen and for taking the airport's advertising in house. He will present that business case to the board before any decisions or video screen purchases are made.

Matt M. Johnson, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.

Copyright 2014 - The Bradenton Herald