News: Mass advertising and microtargeting

The airport draws millions of visitors and is home to countless OOH displays – so why use those displays to only reach a limited audience?

Welcome to the airport: a dynamic environment. Some visitors are about to embark on an intercontinental business trip, others are returning from a sunny holiday. If you consider this continuous flow of travellers, as well as the airport’s countless OOH displays, it seems like a solid destination for reaching the masses. Utilising that same destination as a micro medium? Well, that might feel a tad counterintuitive. But exclusively sharing your story on a limited number of displays – and to a limited audience – can increase impact. Imagine: while the intercontinental business traveller journeys from the departures hall to her gate, she’s taken along a narrative ad sequence for the latest smartphone. The returnee? He’s greeted by a refreshing ad for Aquafresh toothpaste.

Published on: 10 February 2023

But let’s address the elephant in the room first. When discussing airports, you can’t ignore the events of the past few years. Lockdowns and travel bans made for deserted departure halls and when excited globetrotters could finally travel again, they first had to queue for hours. Ambitious advertisers, however, took this as an opportunity to turn those frowns upside down. Visitors returning to Schiphol Airport received a warm welcome from HelloFresh, thanks to several displays and a surprise at baggage claim.

Know your audience

Speaking of visitors, airports attract an awful lot – especially now the lockdown-induced drop has resolved. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol hosts will host more than 60 million travellers, 32% of which also reside in The Netherlands. Eindhoven Airport and Rotterdam The Hague Airport host six and two million respectively, with about 80% belonging to the Dutch audience. Despite their numbers, these visitors have a lot in common and in many ways, these commonalities make them an advertiser’s dream audience. They’re upbeat (business or pleasure, trips are always exciting). They have a reasonable amount of disposable income (flying isn’t cheap). And while waiting at their gate, they often view ads as entertainment. To many travellers, ads and shopping sprees are an innate part of the journey – or at least an exciting start to it. Whether books, souvenirs or a plus-size bar of Toblerone, everyone has that one airport purchase that traditionally marks the start of their trip.

But their diversity makes these travellers fascinating too. The aforementioned airports each serve as a melting pot of nationalities, ages, incomes and travel destinations. In 2023, OOH advertising has become more than just flashing brightly-coloured posters to accidental passers-by – especially when it comes to passers-by at the airport. A business-class traveller on a work trip simply benefits from different ads than the members of a stag party. And that business traveller will also take a different route to her gate. Amsterdam-, Eindhoven- and Rotterdam Airport each have access to a sea of data, through sources like ticket information, free Wi-Fi networks, eye-tracking tools and transactional data. Take a moment to recall your latest trip. Chances are, you had to scan your flight ticket when buying that oversized bar of Toblerone, right? With these sources, an owner like Schiphol’s media department can predict a traveller’s behaviour. Is a visitor flying to Girona? With this in mind, ads can be tailored to the visitor’s route through the airport. Subsequently, most of the people who see a tailored ad will also fit into that ad’s target audience. Ads can also be tailored to push specific products. Sunscreen, anyone?

A trip within a trip

The airport is a travel destination in and of itself (and not only because Schiphol is bigger than the city of Leiden). On their way to the gate, visitors move through different spaces, each with their own mood and touchpoints. Just think about the light boxes in the bustle of Schiphol Plaza, the screens in the lounges of Eindhoven Airport or the ad “suitcases” at baggage claim. Moreover, the way in which visitors move through the airport can already be predicted. But what does that mean for advertisers?

Zooming in

When you think of the aforementioned visitor numbers, zooming in on the airport seems somewhat counterintuitive. Isn’t OOH a medium for reaching the masses? Still, for some advertisers, it pays to zoom in on a selection of strategically-placed screens. Take the shopping area of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, for example. Here, those travelling to tropical destinations can feast their eyes on ads for sunglasses. When it comes to tailoring ads, the location, flight information and visitors’ walking routes all seem like obvious factors. But advertisers can get creative with the hooks for their dynamic ads. How about tailoring your ads to the weather, seasonal parties or trending Netflix shows?

Sharing a chronological story

Because a visitor’s walking route can be predicted, smart advertisers can use the airport’s many touchpoints to share a chronological story. On their way from the departures hall to the gate, visitors usually see a repetition of the same message. So show them a narrative ad sequence instead! Of course, thanks to her millions of visitors, the airport remains a solid stage for DOOH as a tried-and-tested mass medium. But what if you’d zoom in on a small target group or view the airport’s many touchpoints as chapters to your story? Eindhoven Airport and Rotterdam The Hague Airport have already been connected to the programmatic landscape – a mere amuse-bouche, seeing Amsterdam Airport Schiphol will quickly follow suit. The result? An increasing amount of space in which advertisers can get flexible and creative.