Interview with Mrs. Pfaff on the occasion of Media Frankfurt's 50th anniversary

Interview with...

...Mrs. Pfaff

What makes airport advertising so special

Fomer Marketing Director Susanne Pfaff woked with Media Frankfurt from 2016 to 2021. In our interview, she explains why airport advertising is an impact booster, which campaigns have made the most spectacular use of storytelling in recent years and why there is still a great potential waiting to be exploited.

You have been working in the marketing sector for 20 years, at Media Frankfurt for five of them. What can airport advertising achieve which other forms of advertising cannot?

Airport advertising is big. It’s special. It’s different. At airports advertising messages are communicated with a wide coverage and in a high-quality environment to a global target group. An atmosphere of get-up-and-go pervades Frankfurt Airport the whole year round. Even apart from a classical high season, you will find an airport which is constantly busy.

Moreover we are the only airport which can offer individual customer-journey solutions. We accompany travellers even before they enter the terminal and begin boarding. And we remain in contact with them far beyond this point by combining a variety of media in the various communication channels as they make their way through the duty-free shops, while they are waiting in the airline lounge, at the gate and even a bit longer. Nowhere else in Germany will you find such an extraordinary spectrum and a greater range of options – both digital and analogue – for creative storytelling. And daring advertising installations, never seen before, find their realisation at Frankfurt Airport, which offers a unique combination of space and a first-class, international target group.

Coverage figures are not the only currency. Contact quality and the impact of every communication measure is decisive. Media Frankfurt has invested massively in measuring the impact of airport advertising. Why is this such a major component of Media Frankfurt’s strategy?

We know: advertising messages at an airport find a stimulus-hungry, decision-making audience with a cosmopolitan mindset. This high-spending target group brings with it plenty of relaxed time for convincing advertising impressions: a traveller spends an average of 169 minutes at our airport. The particular mood of travellers triggers a particular perception of advertising, thereby achieving a corresponding advertising impact. For two years now we have been able to back up this impact with exact data. Together with MediaAnalyzer, the well-known Hamburg market-research institute, we have developed the “digital airport walk.” Unique in the airport environment. Through the “digital airport walk” or the “digital airport walk plus” we have been the first to identify parameters for the impact of digital advertising at a German airport, systematically, in a standard method. Depending on customer requirements, we calculate the most important parameters, such as advertising recall and rise in brand recognition, or generate even further insights – from advertising impression all the way to impact on brand image and purchasing intention. By means of attention tracking we can identify the exact points at which the subjects’ attention is fixed.

This also offers potential approaches for optimising tested campaigns. In this way at the same time general lessons are learned for the optimum design of airport advertising. Using this tool, we can demonstrate to customers transparently that advertising at Frankfurt Airport is a genuine attention booster: here, in this way, “top-of-mind” brand recognition is doubled or, in the case of a well-known German automotive manufacturer, led ultimately to a rise of 32 percent in purchasing probability compared with the control group.

Can you tell us any other market-research results?

We have now carried out more than 20 studies. Along with digital formats, analogue formats can also be tested, for example airport advertising on various different king-size light boxes. With regard to the target groups tested, too, the method can be applied flexibly: in this process we take care of course to recruit a representative segment. Last year we set up an advertising-impact conference for our customers in the lifestyle and luxury segment, which met with great interest, especially from international brands. The impact on high-end brands is particularly strong in the airport environment, likewise airport advertising is attention-boosting. This was the starting gun for a series of conferences, since the demand for well-proven statistics is enormous and the knowledge so gained is particularly valuable for our customers. Through collaboration with other German airports we shall expand advertising-impact measurement further and thus the digital airport walk as state-of-the-art.

Media Frankfurt’s market research has identified an outstandingly high potential impact by luxury advertising at the airport. What are the causes of this outstanding impact?

Frankfurt Airport is not just a major international travel hub but, with 40,000 m2 of retail floor space, also one of the biggest shopping malls in the region. Here you will find a premium environment with numerous luxury and brand shops, a high-end duty-free range, and high-quality catering. An environment in which luxury brands can showcase their messages and core brand particularly well. This has been confirmed in our luxury and lifestyle study by over 60 percent of passengers, who found the airport as an advertising platform particularly exclusive and striking: advertising recall for the luxury motifs is also particularly high.


According to your market-research data, to which further target groups is airport advertising definitely attractive?

To all of them. Thanks to our large play with a multifarious media pool, we always have precisely the right answer to our clients’ briefing preferences and expectations. We design media packages in a customer-individual way along the entire customer journey, i.e. on all channels, and we link them with outstanding, unique installations – as, for instance, Chanel impressively demonstrated in 2016, with an elaborate, genuine waterfall in the shape of a flacon.

Storytelling is one of the most entertaining communication trends of the last few years. On the advertising displays at Frankfurt Airport, too. Which inspiring campaigns occur to your mind just now?

Through the installations at Frankfurt Airport CMOs and marketing managers aim to generate an emotional charge.

For Dewar’s, the whisky manufacturer, we designed a very special customer experience: the customer was accompanied from the security check via the duty-free area into the atrium. The highlight was an attention-getting installation with a tattoo studio, whisky tasting and chicken bingo.

Often a particular advertising opportunity is derived from the media themselves: our digital-entertainment gate in the international transfers section is the biggest advertising space which we have in the airport. And through its 180-degree arching and 21 metre length it is ideally suitable as a walkway. The fashion brand Boss has made creative use of this, to showcase their new collection here. From there we then guided the passengers through intelligent advertising messages directly into the Boss store, in which the new collection was available.

The campaign by Pernod Ricard Global Travel Retail was also “absolutely” outstanding. With the slogan “Ready to share good times with people all over the planet?”, at Frankfurt Airport, in close collaboration with Changi Airport in Singapore, the first dynamic campaign was run for Vodka Absolute. At the launch of the Absolute World “Limited Edition” there started a global movement, in the course of which the two airports called upon to people to share their favourite personal places by selfie. Via our digital deluxe network with more than 70 digital screens along the customer journey, the passengers were accompanied by the campaign from the security check via the duty-free shop to the gate. In this process the “global selfies” were linked with the flight-plan data and output dynamically via our content-management system. In this way each of the target groups got highly interesting insider recommendations presented on the way to their gate.

Just to wind forward for a bit – in your opinion, how will advertising change even more in the coming years? What trends will be influencing us in the future?

The huge world of airport advertising is not yet exhausted. Of course digital advertising and its formats will become increasingly predominant. Terminal 3, alongside promotion spaces, will be equipped solely with digital displays of an iconic character. No matter if it’s virtual reality, showrooms or even holograms – these are all factors which we link to guarantee the best presentation for the client and at the same time generate a world of experience for the passenger. Our next step will mark a new milestone: programmatic advertising at the whole airport and on almost all digital installations will open up a completely new world to brands. Since even now we are already very familiar with our target groups and the routes they take, and can synchronise using numerous insights and external data sources, such as flight-information data – now we already have an excellent basis to start from. The next step is then not very far away, which will completely redefine the target-group approach. If now we can imagine coupling the whole thing with AI in running the campaign...Nor are we just sitting on our laurels in the market-research field – perhaps, through social-media monitoring or “Alexa” surveys, we shall soon be able to analyse the customer journey much earlier and gain important knowledge.

Thus in future, too, with our digital facilities, we shall be able to guarantee the very high-spending, over 50 percent international target group at Frankfurt Airport a completely new brand experience. And thus be able to increase sales for our clients.