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Airport inventory on course to sell out as advertisers bet on busy festive travel

Advertisers look to airports this winter as consumer travel expected to rise

Airport advertising inventory is on course to sell out this winter as brands bet big on a busy Christmas travel period.

According to out of home buyers, advertisers are scrambling for airport ad spots with many major global terminals having “extremely limited” or fully occupied spaces. Until recently, sellers were offering up to 80% discount to entice buyers, said Ashley Moll, business director for out of home buyer Quan, but now they can’t secure space until early 2022.

“Travel is back, and this has happened quickly,” Moll said. In high traffic areas in cities like LA and New York it’s been impossible to find inventory, she added

Meanwhile, Matthew O'Connor, chief executive officer of out of home agency AdQuick, said the deals for airport inventory have “evaporated” and demand has “increased significantly” – up 60% versus last year.

The rush to get a spot at airports this winter means the majority of advertisers are requesting digital spots as static OOH airport ads have a four-six-week lead time as they are harder to produce and install.

“We have lots of fast turnaround RFPs and clients looking to activate quick so [they] are requesting digital,” Moll said. O'Connor added that “programmatic digital OOH inventory is especially popular right now.”

“Generally, the inventory for large format OOH ad units at airports has tightened up,” O’Connor continued. “But smaller ad units like Wifi sponsorships, ordering tablet ads, and in-flight ads remain fairly available and are more cost-effective.”

This month's earnings update from outdoor firm Clear Channel offered more evidence of airport advertising's sudden boom in popularity. Its chief William Eccleshare lauded the rebound in airport advertising with airport display revenue in America alone up 88.7% to $43m in the third quarter.

"That trajectory has continued into Q4 and we are definitely seeing advertisers get excited about the fact that international travel is happening," he said.

O'Connor has also witnessed a broader range of brands interested in airport advertising. Airport spots have traditionally attracted B2B brands to reach business travelers, he said, but that has given way to B2C advertisers looking to “reach young, affluent digital nomads”.

Research from outdoor advertising firm JCDecaux recently claimed airport advertising delivers the highest perceived value for brands when compared to online, social, TV, and press. Compiled from the insights of 6,000 consumers in China, France, Germany, UK, and the US, JCDecaux found on an index basis airport audience scored 111 for perceived value and 113 for prestige, compared with TV’s 101 and 99 respectively.

While airports are getting booked up, Moll expalined there is still hesitation around trains and underground services. Pre-pandemic the New York Subway was “the number one place our clients wanted to be, but it’s still flat”.

Instead advertisers are keeping their powder dry. “We are still pitching trains and there are a lot of good deals to be had but there isn’t much hunger for it,” Moll concluded.

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