T5 Heathrow – where your heart beats faster (not only on Valentine’s Day)

February 14, 2008 at 2:17 am | Posted in Ads, Advertising, Billboards, Displays, Heathrow, Heathrow airport, Heathrow expansion, LCDs, ProWebSurfer, Screens, Visual | 4 Comments

XKCD Valentine’s Day heartHappy Valentine’s Day! This wonders-of-advertising story in today’s Wall Street Journal just goes to prove that next month I shall need ProWebSurfer built into my head-up display as I make my way through the new terminal singing this song.

The drive behind the world’s most exclusive shopping centre complex facilitated by Heathrow expansion has never been so (liquid) crystal clear 😉

Now, the beauty of digital is that there is an ON and an OFF. If someone could offer me an alternative, ad-free terminal to fly out from and back home to, I’d offer more than my heartfelt wishes …

Airport Advertising Takes Off

Heathrow Packs In Billboards, TV Sets At New Terminal Five


February 14, 2008


Travelers at Heathrow Airport’s new terminal will be able to sip champagne at a Gordon Ramsey restaurant or eat doughnuts at a Krispy Kreme outlet. One choice they won’t get: avoiding ads.

In a major expansion of the world’s busiest international airport, Heathrow owner BAA Ltd. is scheduled to open the airport’s fifth terminal next month — with more advertising than almost any airport in the world.

From giant billboards overlooking security lines to television screens in the underground train station, the ads have been positioned in ways BAA hopes will make them impossible to avoid. There are 333 billboards or posters and 206 flat-screen TV sets, which can change ads to target specific flights. By contrast, Los Angeles International has 34 advertising TV sets in the entire airport and New York’s John F. Kennedy International has 40, according to JCDecaux SA, a Paris-based specialist in outdoor advertising that was hired to design and sell the new Heathrow ad space to marketers.

Behind the advertising push: BAA, a unit of publicly traded Spanish conglomerate Grupo Ferrovial SA, is pushing advertising to help generate profit from the terminal, which cost £4.2 billion ($8.24 billion). While U.S. airports are typically owned by local or state governments, they too increasingly are turning to advertising to make money.

BAA saw an opportunity in the travelers expected to pass through Heathrow. The airport, which serves Europe’s biggest financial center and is a transit point for many flights to and from the U.S., draws heavily on international business travelers, a group advertisers will pay a premium to reach. Some 27 million people are expected to pass through the new building, called Terminal Five, in the first year and Decaux estimates that 30% of them will earn more than $100,000 a year.

XKCD Valentine’s Day heart

To map where passengers would walk, Decaux hired researchers with video cameras to follow people around other terminals as they checked in and waited for flights. The researchers also monitored passengers’ pulses: The average business traveler’s heart rate was 91 beats per minute, they found, compared with 70 beats for a relaxed person.

“Highly aroused people are receptive to messages,” says Kevin Miller, Decaux’s head of research on the project.

Typical Terminal Five visitors will see between 50 and 120 ads, depending on whether they arrive at the airport by car or train and whether they fly domestic or international flights, says Julie France, U.K. managing director of J.C. Decaux Airport. That’s at least one ad every two minutes and 55 seconds, based on the two hours and 26 minutes an average traveler spends at Heathrow.

The Heathrow ads are part of efforts to reach people outside traditional television, radio and print advertising. While outdoor advertising is a small part of the industry, it is growing faster — at 8% a year — than all other advertising forms except the Internet.

One place Decaux had trouble getting permission to advertise was the immigration hall, where officials check travelers’ passports. British officials would allow just one ad, a six-meter-long billboard on a side wall, due to the sensitivity of the area, Ms. France says.

Ad buyers say Heathrow’s use of liquid-crystal-display TV sets might be copied by other airports. The sets are designed for short, soundless ads. Conventional TV ads wouldn’t work because the screens don’t have sound and most TV ads are too long for a busy airport. Heathrow’s TV sets are part of a network of some 600 TV screens at eight airports across Britain, including London’s Gatwick and in Edinburgh, Scotland. Decaux sells spots on them nationally and by airport.

“This is the first time that digital [advertising] is playing a really significant role” in an airport, says Jonathan Goldsmid-Whyte, chief executive of WPP Group PLC’s Aviator, which buys ad space in airports for clients.

Decaux sells ads in 141 airports around the world and expects Terminal Five to be its most lucrative individual terminal, measured by revenue per passenger, a Decaux spokesman said.

So far, Decaux has sold 65% of the ad space in Terminal Five to brands including Visa Inc., which bought four 30-meter-long billboards overlooking the two security lanes. The billboards were offered for £1.5 million a year. A Visa spokeswoman declined to say if the credit-card company paid the full price.

InterContinental Hotels Group PLC booked posters near the check-in counters because it wants business travelers to see Crowne Plaza hotels as stylish, just like the new building. The ads will show interiors of Crowne Plaza hotels in London and Geneva.

Terminal Five is “modern, contemporary and well-designed,” says Mike Greenup, brand director of the London-based company’s Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts division. “We want to associate the brand with that.”

Packed with shops and restaurants, Terminal Five has a gently curved roof modeled on London’s big railway stations and glass walls so people can watch planes take off and land. The first scheduled flight is a British Airways Boeing 747 from Hong Kong on March 27.



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  1. Would you really want an ad-free AIRPORT TERMINAL? We covered the WSJ story here http://www.dailydooh.com/archives/1077

  2. Yes, of course I would love an ad-free airport terminal.
    That does not mean I am against all advertising. It is just that most people are bombarded with too much inconsequential visual clutter these days, and have no chance to turn it off. To the extent that there is no escape in an airport or any other public space, this is unnatural.
    At an airport, where most people’s hearts are racing anyway, it would be beneficial to travellers’ health to have interior decor that was pleasing to the eye, rather than having visual distractions pushed at us from every direction.
    The most memorable (and costly) British Airways TV ad with the people forming the Face would be great to see once in a while. I tried, unsuccessfully, to find that online as I think it is a good example of how BA used to be.
    DVDs and TV with TiVo are preferable because most ads can be skipped and good ads can be repeated! I use ProWebSurfer to block out annoying ads on websites. The websites that begin with ads, and have an ‘Enter’ sign, I never return to.

  3. of course , every one wants an ad-free airport terminal. but I think paid ads can be effective because you can get excellent services

  4. Dear Aerial Advertising,

    Thanks for your comment and link.

    I get a lot of comments from advertisers that I choose to block as spam, because I do not want unsolicited ads on my blog.

    Although you are advertising your services, I have approved your comment, because your Aerial Signage is different AND you make good points about communicating in a succinct and memorable way on your homepage.

    P.S. When I wrote my post back on Valentine’s Day, T5 had not opened. It is a shame that BAABA put more thought and effort into coordinating consumer advertising instead of coordinating terminal facilities for those potential captive customers. Never has such a good example been provided of a business overlooking the fundamentals (in this case by streamlining passenger services and improving baggage handling) in favour of serving potential consumers, at such cost to its reputation. Advertising spend can not compete with operational incompetence on BAABA’s T5 scale!

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