Heathrow Airport’s Fifth Terminal: 206 FPDs

BAA, the owner of Heathrow Airport, will open a new and fifth terminal this month with 206 flat panel displays (FPDs). Just as a quick comparison, LAX has just 34 FPDs in the entire airport while JFK has 40, according to JCDecaux, a Paris-based advertising firm. JCDecaux was tapped to design and sell all of the ad space at Heathrow. (BAA is a unit of Grupo Ferrovial, a Spanish conglomerate.)

The fifth termiinal cost the Grupo group a cool US$8.25 billion. BAA looked to targeted ads on FPDs to recoup some of that investment. Many international business travelers, around 27 million are expected just in Terminal Five in the first year, pass through Heathrow Airport and the ads will likely target them. According to JCDecaux about 30% of those travelers will earn $100,000 or more.

JCDecaux did some investigative work by hiring some researchers and found out that passengers had heart rates that averaged 91 beats per minute (bpm), which is much higher than the average of just 70bpm. However, they wrongly concluded that “Highly aroused people are receptive to messages.” In my opinion, the passengers are “highly aroused” because they need to catch a plane! They don’t have much time to read ads and then go purchase whatever those ads were selling. These 91bpm folks just want to get their boarding passes, get through security and get on the plane or they simply need to catch their connecting flights. If it were up to me, I would target the passengers who are at 70bpm since they will most likely have more time to shop, eat, and relax a bit.

According to JCDecaux the average traveler spends 2 hours and 26 minutes at Heathrow. And they want to bombard them with roughly 50 to 120 ads while they are there. I recently signed up for AT&T’s U-verse fiber-to-the-street TV and Internet service. I haven’t watched TV in many years and it was surprising to see TV commercials that looked the same from about a decade ago. The only TV ads that I have actually enjoyed watching are just a few, such as Apple’s ads. If ads are not highly targeted and there a lot that travelers will need to endure at Heathrow, I would hazard to guess their bpm will increase precisely because of their desire to pulverize those distracting ads.

JCDecaux is expecting a lot of revenue from these FPDs. The company sells ads in 141 airports the world over and expects Terminal Five to be the most lucrative individual passenger. That might end up becoming true due to the shear number of “ad space” on those FPDs. But look at how advertising is doing on the Internet? If they don’t have much to do about what I am searching for, reading about, etc. then they just become a distraction. That’s why Google’s AdSense is generally small, unobtrusive and contextual. Let’s see how advertisers do on those huge FPDs.

Source: The Wall Street Journal (print edition, 2008.02.15)

[tags]Digital Signage, Heathrow Airport, JCDecaux[/tags]

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