Aishwarya Ramesh

As flights reopen, will flyers pay attention to airport OOH and DOOH ads?

The ban on domestic flights has been lifted, but the way we fly has changed drastically. How will flyers perceive airport ads now?

As India reopens flights after nearly 60 days of lockdown, the way we fly has changed forever. Flyers, airhostesses and pilots alike have to observe social distancing norms, wear masks and take multiple precautions to ensure that they do not spread the Coronavirus, or unwittingly become its carrier. Given the stressful circumstances, how perceptive will a customer be to digital outdoor and OOH ads at airports?

In order to understand how the consumer mindset is affected by the changing nature of travel, we reached out to Ruchira Jain, a veteran consumer behaviour expert (former VP consumer insights, Swiggy), to understand how ads will be perceived while travelling. She begins by saying that consumers now will only travel for pressing needs, and this sort of self-regulation for essential travel is going to persist for the next 3-6 months, if not more.

“Despite all measures airports and airlines may take, there will be high anxiety on the part of travellers because any social place implies a higher risk of contracting the virus. Previously, even if you were travelling for a vacation, or even for business, it was not this stressful.”

Jain also says that airports attract well-to-do consumers with a reasonable amount of spending power. However, given the circumstances, people would want to minimise non-essential activity and restrict engagement with the surroundings. “Having said that, airports will remain a prime location for brand visibility to this target audience. At this point in time, this space should come less at a premium, than it normally does, and there could be meaningful ways to leverage this space. Message and medium must gel with the consumer mind state and, hence, what messaging to focus on becomes critical.”

She reiterates that the visibility of the airport space must be used for brand reinforcement and, hence, focus on messaging around what the brand is doing to address consumers’ safety concerns. “Brands could also use the visibility to inform consumers about the charitable causes taken up in the face of the pandemic. If your brand is offering a service, or operating any selling point at the airport, make sure that you are not just following government regulations around safety and hygiene, but going a step ahead to make consumers feel safe and at ease.”

Ruchira Jain
Ruchira Jain

“I wouldn’t advise marketers to use the air travel space for typical brand engagement messages, or activities. Brands could also provide facilities, such as sanitising services, individual no-contact spaces to sit in while at the airport, and similar measures in the flight, like branding individual sanitised seat covers, etc. As a marketer, you can use the airport context to communicate that you really care, are making all efforts towards safety and hygiene, and actions speak louder than any proclamations!”

Tanmay Mohanty, CEO, Zenith India, and head – global partnerships at Publicis Media India, says that given the scare around the virus, the footfalls will decrease, considering there’s no solution in sight. “Given the social distancing norms and the restrictions imposed by respective states – you’ll see a large shift in how people act within an airport. Things like sanitiser stalls were not there in the past. Things will definitely change, especially considering that now, people might have to spend more time at an airport, undergoing processes.”

Tanmay Mohanty
Tanmay Mohanty

He takes the example of check-in area branding. “Due to social distancing norms, there will be a change in the pace at which people move through this area. Same at the baggage collection area – to prevent crowding, now norms dictate that travellers are only allowed to carry one check-in bag."

“From a pricing point of view, most airports will decrease their ad rates by the end of this month. The pricing has to be cheaper, than what it used to be, because the footfalls will go down. However, in the long term, we are expecting the rates to go back to normal. There will be a difference in the categories that advertise in airports in the short term (6-9 months). Categories like e-commerce and luxury will definitely advertise in airports again,” adds Mohanty.

The rates per ad unit varied at airport arrival and departure areas, depending on the city that the airport is located in. At the Mumbai International Airport, an ad unit in the arrival area previously cost roughly Rs 4.9 lakh per month. At the departure area, it cost up to Rs 6.2 lakh. Advertising in the Delhi Airport is a much more expensive affair – costing up to Rs 8.5 lakh per unit per month in the arrival area, and up to Rs 13 lakh in the departure area.

Mohanty added that some clients in the personal care category – sanitisers, washrooms, are showing interest in advertising at airports. “However, given that revised pricing rates haven’t come in yet, we have to wait and watch…”

Ritu Sharda, chief creative officer at Ogilvy India (North), stresses that the need of the hour in advertising is sensitivity in what is written, and how it is written. She says that creative personnel try to put themselves in the consumer's shoes when it comes to creating communication, and that is more important now than ever.

Ritu Sharda
Ritu Sharda

“We are all in it together. Whatever is going on is affecting us in a similar way. The fears are the same. So if it makes me comfortable, I know it will be okay for someone to see it. As the economy opens up, slowly things will start normalising. The human spirit will take over. We will take vacations again. It will take time, but it will happen. It must. It's very important to write whatever we do with a positive mindset, with a sensitivity check, of course,” she signs off.

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