Digital Marketing Redux   //   December 19, 2023

How brands like Kizik are getting creative with airport advertising

Footwear brand Kizik makes slip-on sneakers that can be slipped on and off without having to untie the laces. So when the brand was considering how diversify its marketing channels, it landed on a spot to reach potential customers who might be frustrated with the current state of their shoes: TSA travel bins.

This year, Kizik experimented with advertising in Transportation Security Administration bins and security lanes. It conducted four-week long campaigns in Seattle, Tampa, Charlotte, Washington, D.C. and Houston. Taglines like “Step right in” and “Go hands-free” played up the ease of the product in a spot where customers would be putting their shoes. Brett Swensen, vp of marketing at Kizik, said the brand capitalized on the campaign with other wall ads in the area as well as geo-targeted video ads. But he knew it was a hit when travelers started tagging Kizik in photos from airports.

“We saw a lot of sharing and people were saying, ‘What a smart ad placement,'” he said. “It made so much sense as people were going through the line, and we knew it was bubbling up and resonating with people outside of sales and purchase conversions. So it was nice to see that word of mouth.”

More brands are eyeing airports as a unique brand awareness opportunity. Travelers, many of whom tend to show up early with the intention of dining or shopping, are a somewhat captive audience as they await their flight’s departure. There’s also the sheer quantity of eyeballs: the Transportation Security Administration has screened a record number of passengers so far in 2023, with more than 2.8 million passengers on single days, indicating that travel is booming after a pandemic-induced lull. And with major airline infrastructure updates and terminal renovations going on at airports from New York to Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, the creative opportunities are growing with more digital signage, large wall-space and built-in displays. 

For brands, airport marketing can offer a boost by association. Outdoor advertising agency JCDecaux did a study in 2021 that found passengers have higher perceived value of brands they see in airports compared to brands seen on TV, in print or online. Brands that have a related tie-in to travel — like luggage, or slip-on shoes — have the added benefit of addressing a top-of-mind issue. 

While measuring the effectiveness of airport advertising can be challenging, Kizik’s Swensen said part of the benefit was introducing the brand to a new area, as Kizik selected the airports after identifying underserved markets After the campaigns ran, Google Analytics trends spiked anywhere from 5% to 10% in the targeted areas, Swenson said. And with the geo-targeted video ads and any keyword searches, Kizik could take some data from the campaign from future pitches to retail or wholesale partners in the area.

“It was a no-brainer for us,” Swensen said. “As other brands look at it there may be some hesitation, ‘Does it make sense to have an ad in an airport bin when people are in the hustle and bustle of an airport?’ But I felt like ti was something was really unique to us a a brand.”

Brian Rappaport, theCEO at Quan Media Group, an out-of-home agency that’s played a role in multiple airport campaigns, said he advises brands to think about airports as an extension of markets. “When brands think out of home, they think of billboards and subways. They don’t think about how many people are traveling via airports,” he said. “It’s been a very big thing to incorporate, especially in the top 10 DMAs.” Rappaport said he sees more brands becoming interested in advertising at airports as they see new opportunities, like wrapping the inside of a jet bridge or an in-flight video ad.

One current campaign that Rappaport points to is from the bag brand Dagne Dover, which has been advertising in airports in Dallas, Austin and New York since November. The wall wraps show a neatly organized duffel, located near security checkpoints and baggage claims — when travelers  may be running into any issues with their current luggage and mulling an upgrade. Another upcoming campaign is from a fantasy sports brand that will be advertising at digital charging stations, catching people when they’re already on their phone. 

“There are so many relevant topical opportunities,” Rappaport said. “I think that a lot of brands don’t realize that they can wrap every single column in baggage claim… you’re basically owning an entire major part of the airport from where 100% of arrivals come through.”

As airports modernize and update their facilities, more marketing opportunities can be expected. Screens and large walls are being constructed with the intention of serving as displays. Los Angeles International Airport has a “storyboard” setup where a series of screens can play off each other. The remodeled Terminal B at LaGuardia has multiple opportunities for wall-sized digital screens, banners and digital networks. Rappaport said he expects to see this new wave come with more creative opportunities, similar to the kinds of 3D ads seen in Times Square.

More ads with QR codes are also popping up. There are also opportunities to cater to ultra-luxury customers who are jetsetting from private terminals or exclusive check-in areas. 

From a cost perspective, price varies based on the size of the airport, and the type of ad. Rappaport said large placements in major airports are competitive with “a big wall in SoHo or a billboard on Sunset.” It could be as much as $75,000 for an ongoing digital network campaign displayed across multiple screens. But there could be more affordable options, like $25,000 for a month-long print ad placements. For comparison, a Times Square billboard could cost anywhere $5,000 to $50,000 a day, while a billboard on a California freeway could be $1,500 to $30,000 a month.

“There are expensive opportunities, but there are also ways to get in there without spending a ton of money,” he said. “You just have to be tactical.”