Fancy a romantic night out at Terminal 5?

So, where to go on that long-awaited first date? Candle-lit dinner for two? Maybe something a little less formal? Crazy golf or bowling? Or that reliable old standard – a movie and a pizza? All worthy options. Quite probably a trip to the airport wouldn’t, however, immediately spring to mind as a consideration. Nonetheless, I recently found myself thinking that there might actually be some surprising parallels between a visit to the cinema and a trip to the airport – at least when it comes to the way that advertising is consumed in these two locations.

Now, despite having spent well over 3 decades in various media roles, I have to say that this is not a comparison I’ve found myself discussing previously. But two guys in my Insight team recently returned from an MRG research event talking about a cinema presentation they’d both enjoyed, and one or two things they said resonated with me in terms of potential similarities.

Firstly, both are relatively low reach media, or at least low reach when compared to, say, broadcast TV and national Out-of-Home. Admittedly 80 million adults a year pass through Heathrow, and that’s plenty of adults. But it’s still less than a couple of million a month. Cinema’s the same. It’s not really in the same league as TV for broadcast reach. But the key similarity here is that neither are really about broadcast reach of all adults. Both are highly efficient at delivering big numbers of key desirable targeted groups. For cinema it’s young adults, with the airport it’s affluent, influential, international business and leisure travellers.

And the reach similarities don’t end there. Both media don’t build coverage quickly, The average adult flies around 4 times a year, and I suspect the average adult goes to see a movie with similar regularity. So neither medium will build rapid reach. But there are good reasons why both will deliver effective coverage.

The thing is, not all opportunities to see are created equal, and the OTS (opportunity to see) at the cinema and in the departure lounge, are, I genuinely believe, amongst the most powerful available for a prospective advertiser. Many of the reasons why are common to both environments. Both effectively deliver a captive audience with limited distractions. This isn’t a fleeting experience. Both audiences are in a heightened sense of awareness and excitement (regardless of whether or not they are, in fact, actually on a first date). They’re looking forward to a new and highly stimulating experience (also regardless of whether or not they are actually on a first date). Even the most frequent of flyers still generally refers to their time at the airport as special, removed from the “everyday”.

The advertising platforms themselves are huge, larger than life, unmissable – panels and screens offering brands the most visually impressive creative canvas that money can buy. This is advertising on a grand scale.

There’s one final similarity I think is worth mentioning, and it’s the one that came up in the MRG presentation I mentioned earlier – the power of a shared group experience. In a group we tend to experience a heightened state of alertness and attention, plus there’s something about being exposed to ads in a public space, in the presence of other consumers, that somehow makes a brand more tangible, more real, more authoritative.

So, how best to sum up this analogy? Neither medium builds broadcast cover quickly, but both deliver attractive discrete target groups with minimal wastage over time. And, once there, consumers find the advertising extraordinarily compelling and engaging. Maybe not as compelling and engaging as a dream partner on that first date, but without doubt still a great setting for enoying a meaningful and memorable dialogue!