In a world where board rooms are demanding more ‘bang for their buck’, marketing and communications teams are constantly pressurised to demonstrate the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns. The likes of TVRs, JNLR, JNRS, JNOR and Click Throughs can provide all the relevant information for traditional media but what about other locations? Airport advertising is widely used by brands to both welcome and wave good-bye to thousands within their target market. But with no industry solutions to prove the success of this advertising, brands can be wary. RED C set out to prove the effectiveness of advertising in Dublin Airport, the results are astonishing.

RED C Research, in conjunction with Vodafone, conducted a large scale advertising evaluation study in Dublin Airport which consisted of 600 face-to-face quantitative interviews and 12 depth interviews. Vodafone developed and placed two very different campaigns in Dublin Airport from 14th – 30th May 2012. The first campaign was targeting departing passengers and provided details of their roaming package in a humorous manner. The second targeted arriving passengers and displayed varying landscapes of scenic Ireland, welcoming passengers to Ireland and saying they were ‘Ireland’s favourite network.’

First and foremost, how many people saw the campaign? When we take actual DAA passenger figures for the period 14th – 30th May, we know a total of 970,439 passengers went through the doors of Dublin Airport. From our research, we can conclude that 49% of all passengers, who were exposed to the adverts, saw either the Departure Campaign and/or the Arrivals Campaign. This equals 475,515 passengers recalling seeing the Vodafone campaign in Dublin Airport when provided with a prompt, an extremely large audience in just a two week period.

What can we compare this to? Airport advertising is typically likened to outdoor advertising in that its function is to capture attention as people pass by. RED C’s outdoor norm database, built over time and including several industries such as telecoms, banking and retail, shows just 23% average recall for outdoor advertising – nearly half that recorded in Dublin Airport.
When we examine the impact of this campaign specifically, 44% of those who were exposed to the Arrivals campaign stated it made them feel more positive towards Vodafone while 58% of those who were exposed to the Departures campaign stated they would definitely remember this was an ad for Vodafone – a very positive result.

When evaluating airport advertising more generally, we have found that passengers are very accepting of airport advertising and furthermore, place value on this. 59% of all passengers state they enjoy any airport advertising and a further 77% agree that they are appropriate to the setting. Finally, 67% of all passengers in Dublin Airport agree that the airport advertising fits with their needs as a passenger.

When probed further, passengers noted that advertising can add cultural meaning and flavour to the environment. It has the ability to set a tone for a big occasion – eg Leinster rugby and Euro 2012. It can showcase the country’s talents, key products or sense of humour. At a practical level it can also be informative and relevant to your needs. “You can use it to dress up the airport so that you know you are in Dublin and not just anywhere.”  Finally, among regular travellers, advertising breaks the monotony and boredom in airports.

So what can marketers do to maximise the reach of their advertising in Dublin Airport? Emer O’Carroll notes below some outputs of the qualitative research undertaken at Dublin Airport:

  • While the airport can be a distracting environment, departing passengers in particular have the time and capacity to take in rational brand information. It is also important that sites are carefully selected and matched to each other.
  • Automated walkways and air bridges as you walk onto planes are mentioned by passengers as prime sites for grabbing their attention and engagement. Recall of air-bridge advertising has real longevity – with little distraction here, uptake is very strong. HSBC and Vodafone are both mentioned spontaneously in relation to this site.
  • It is important that the copy is short concise and easy to read, while passengers respond well to humorous adverts.
  • Repetition of executions (especially with some small variations) emerged as particularly effective. In one example in Dublin Airport, large executions down to Pier D (where Ryanair departs) build layers onto each other with the variation in imagery sustaining attention. However a word of caution – too much variation in executional style can distract from the overall intended communication. The Meteor campaign is also well recalled in this location especially as the executions all follow a very similar style with enough variation to sustain engagement.
  • Similarly, too much copy can’t be taken in as passengers are passing by – these are more suited to captive locations such as waiting areas at the gates.
  • For both departing and arriving passengers, a high level of enjoyment of the Irish countryside images is evident. The Vodafone Arrivals campaign in particular worked very well, the message within the execution is short, simple and easily recalled – Ireland’s Favourite Network. The campaign delivered emotional boosts and visual curiosity, engaging and delighting passengers. We observed passengers slowing down to take in the various images of Ireland, especially in the arrival corridors where there are few other distractions.


Suggestions for future advertising concepts in airports:
The airport is a great environment for something new and surprising and these are often welcomed by passengers as being different to the norm. Wall wraps, window clings, promotional displays that take full advantage of unused wall and window space in areas of heavy passenger flow are often very effective. One such example is the recent Skoda campaign that featured a car boot at the start of the baggage re-claim conveyor – adding a touch of humour to an otherwise muted environment.

Tesco have also been at the forefront of engaging passengers in airports, their interactive walls in the departure areas that allows the busy passenger to do their shopping while waiting for their flight and have their fridge filled for when they get home.

While an airport experience can be daunting for some, the flavor, character and information that advertising can add to passenger experience is evident from the market research study undertaken. Reaching nearly 500,000 people with your campaign in just two weeks is something that no board can say is not giving plenty ‘bang for buck’.