As many of you can relate, I tend to have spurts where I spend a lot of time in airports. Delays, touchy TSA agents, bad food, and hours of breathing in recycled farts and sneezes tend to make me a mad flyer though. What has brought a touch of cheer to my travels is the increasing amount of digital signage I’ve noticed in airports.
On a recent cross country trip, I saw flat panels conveying arrival/departure and gate info. Why, I wondered, was the airport’s retail and concession areas also not using digital signage, especially with such a captive audience and plenty of eyeballs walking by? I, for one, would love to know how far I am to the nearest restaurant with a bar, rather than hunkering down with a BK meal or slice of Sbarro.
Shibu Kurian, owner of Media 2000 Systems in Illinois, tells me that he’s heavily marketing his digital signage solution to airports but pushback comes from all sides. “The airports have invested money in custom signage that’s expensive,” he says. “The cost of converting to digital signage outweighs the benefit, in their minds.”
Kurian also notes that media companies like Clear Channel have a lock on outdoor digital advertising. He does say that some airports are slowly moving to digital signage, but usually when there is a renovation or new terminal extension. “Some airlines, like at O’Hare, have their own digital signage at the gate,” he says, but those systems are operated and maintained by the airlines, not the airport.
Jeff Porter, executive vice president at Scala in Pennsylvania, says that the digital signage we see as passengers are deployed in the common use area for airport operations. “The airport authority owns the IT infrastructure,” he explains. “In airports that look like shopping malls, they don’t dictate signage when renting retail space.”
And even in concession spaces, airports will contract out to Aramark or HMS Host and leave it up to them for signage. “All the players at the airport – the food services providers, retailers, and the owner of the airport – need to think like a shopping mall,” he adds. “But they act in a silo so there is no cross marketing to delayed passengers.”
Porter uses the example of Simon Malls, a Scala client, as to how digital signage can increase both the customer experience and the customer spend. “People need to understand that digital signage is a new medium. It’s not just a billboard,” he says.
So placing a JC Penney ad outside of a Sears store selling the same shirt for less money will motivate the shopper to walk through the mall. Perhaps he or she will see something else in another store’s window and go in, or will pass the food court and decide to grab a snack. “So, the better question is why retail isn’t using digital signage more?” says Porter.
But really, the question is: Which airport will finally get it right when it comes to integrated digital signage? Which airport will get its act together and use digital signage for information, way finding, and marketing? The answer lies in educational efforts by the likes of Scala, Media 2000 Systems, and the many other digital signage providers who think that airports are a viable market.
What say you, rAVe readers? Which airports are on the path to getting it right? And which ones are getting digital signage horribly wrong? Snap a photo and send it my way.
Linda Seid Frembes is a rAVe columnist who covers AV technology, installs, market trends and industry news. Linda has worked with high profile AV manufacturers, trade organization, systems integrators, rep firms and dealer/distributors in the industry including John Lyons Systems, Eastern Acoustic Works (EAW), Northern Sound & Light (NSL), and InfoComm International, among others. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image via Media 2000 Systems