At first your trip starts out normally. You approach airport security fiddling with your boarding pass. You take a laptop out of its protective sleeve and check your Ziploc bag loaded with small, see-through bottles of fluid (no more than 4 ounces, mind you!).
But something seems different.
And then it hits you. There’s a girl in an orange kayak maneuvering through white water peering up at you from the bottom of the plastic luggage bin just before your drop your bag onto her face and hoist her through the x-ray machine. “History on the Rocks,” reads the copy next to her. And below that, “www.visitrichmond.com.”
“It’s just something completely new, a unique place to be advertising,” said Jennifer Carnam, vice president of marketing for the Richmond Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau, which pays $2,400 a month for the majority of the spots at Richmond’s TSA stations.
“It’s a great way to get people – a captive audience – too see our message … 3.6 million passengers, too,” Carnam said, adding that her organization will likely renew the advertising contract in early summer. Carnam said the ads help reach two targeted audiences: business travelers (for conventions) and leisure travelers (a.k.a. tourists).
Richmond International Airport is part of a pilot program (no pun intended) that sells ad space on the tables and bins at the security queue. According to the Adason Group, the Atlanta company that sells the ad space for RIC, the placements help TSA purchase new plastic bins, carts and the stainless steel tables you can use to gather your shoes, belt or laptop before jamming them back in your bag. The rest of the funds go to the airport after the out-of-town company takes a cut for its efforts.
The ads first appeared in May and are printed on a special product that resists scratching and “keeps the integrity of the ad,” according to Kirk Adams, president of the Adason Group.
“It’s really one of the few venues that can guarantee someone see it and interact with the brand,” Adams said.
There are also ads for Kidney Cars and one for Patriots Landing, the latter reminding the frequent flyer to “Live More, Commute Less.”
So what do a few of Richmond’s ad execs think of the spots:
Randy Freisner: senior VP and media director at The Martin Agency:
“The jury is still out. It’s new enough that no one really knows the effectiveness. It’s probably good for quick name recognition. But putting stuff over top of the brand, it may not be the best vehicle to reach or engage an audience.”
“As a traveler, fumbling for stuff, I don’t know if you’re in the right mindset and want a brand associated with it.”
Doug Burford, President and Cofounder Burford Advertising:
“It’s like putting a commercial in the restroom; I just don’t think it’s the place.”
“But we’re always trying to do something attractive, to get attention, and find a new way of reaching people.”
Dave King: president King Agency:
“The airport is a good place to be, but there may be better places (disclosure: King helps SunTrust place ads on the walls of the terminal).”
“I guess it depends on what sort of product (is being advertised). It might be a good place to put an ad for Dr. Scholl’s foot powder.”