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Why Heathrow’s third runway is a milestone for advertisers

Hailed as a “truly momentous decision” by transport secretary Chris Grayling, the government’s go-ahead of Heathrow’s third runway has delivered a succinct and clear message to global brands and advertisers – that the UK is open for business.
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After years of delays, set-backs and false starts, the government finally approved a third runway at Heathrow. The first full-length runway in the south-east since World War II will mean hundreds of thousands of extra flights in the West London airport and a huge impact on the UK economy.

The expansion won’t come cheap though – it’s expected to cost £17.6bn to build the additional runway. That aside, the third runway is predicted to be the catalyst for economic benefits worth up to £61bn, as well as creating up to 77,000 additional local jobs. The move will also create new and lucrative opportunities for other business sectors, not least the UK’s media and marketing industry.

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It will provide a huge boost to the out-of-home (OOH) advertising sector, which is enjoying something of a landmark year, with ad spend predicted to rise by 4.8 per centin 2016, up to £1.11bn. In a time of nationwide economic uncertainty, the UK airport media landscape is in rude health. This year has seen a number of pivotal developments including the recent acquisition of Airport Media by OOH media operator Primesight, meaning that airport ad sales are now largely handled under two roofs (Primesight and JCDecaux), making media planners’ lives that bit easier.

OOH inventory has also seen something of an upgrade with new and improved screens being added alongside existing landmark sites, such as JCDecaux’s imposing digital towers, wowing passengers in departures at Terminal 5.

Heathrow’s third runway is set to eclipse all recent developments though and will create opportunities not just for West London, but all UK airports. With many UK-based passengers typically driving to Heathrow airport from afar, the third runway will see an improvement of British air-links, increasing advertising reach in regional airports. Media opportunities will improve, and offer a wider network of digital sites across all media owners.

But don’t expect that change to happen immediately. Given the opening of the new terminal and runway is likely to be at least ten years away, what’s important to consider is the advancement of technology and the likely implementation of ground-breaking hardware integrated into the architecture by that time. And by 2026, through vastly increased computing processing power and more easily accessible data sets, the opportunities available to airport advertisers will most likely be multi-sensory, integrated, ultra-targeted communications, far beyond what’s available today. Through this development, brands will find a way to be a seamless part of the traveller’s experience.

Brands that understand the customer’s new “active journey” will have an opportunity to reach airport passengers with the right message at the right time.

Outdoor advertising was long considered a passive medium, but this has changed. Consumers out-of-home are shopping, socialising and travelling – all while hooked up to a connected device, which is creating a plethora of new opportunities for advertisers. For example, targeting will go beyond the airport as those travelling by coach to catch a flight could be served with ads for holiday insurance along the motorway. Or arrivals to the UK could be targeted with ads for hotel booking sites as they exit the airport. Thanks to tech advancements, OOH advertising is becoming increasingly contextual, delivering messaging relevant to the advertising environment.

Within the airport space, advertisers need to be flexible and offer something new and enticing to consumers. This can be achieved in a number of ways; from contextual targeting to full-on experiential brand experiences. Advancements are also being facilitated by tech innovations such as bluetooth beacons, facial recognition and enhanced connectivity which are already changing the game, providing key data for airports and advertisers.

As well as relevant messaging and tech innovations, advertisers must also consider the unique mind-set of the airport traveller. Consumers are both enjoying down time away from the daily routine, and simultaneously anticipating the excitement of a departure. This unique state of mind, combined with dwell time, opens up opportunities for brands to offer key life moment purchases, for example a new car or mortgage.

Airports have long offered brands rare advertising opportunities, but landmark developments such as Heathrow’s third runway will ensure airports are a crucial environment for a growing myriad of brands. Advertisers that take advantage of OOH’s broadcast power, tech innovations and the unique mind-set of the traveller will see their campaigns take flight.

Tom Perrett is head of client operations EMEA at Aviator at Kinetic Worldwide

Image: Shutterstock

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