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Digital Signage: A Day at the Airport

(November 2015) posted on Thu Nov 12, 2015

The best, the worst, and the missed opportunities at a perfect-storm location.

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By Beth Osborne

If America is a melting pot, then its airports are where the simmer starts. Walk through any concourse and you’ll find a medley of travelers; a mixture of races, classes, nationalities, genders, and ages. In other words, it’s a textbook environment to gauge the responses of a variety of consumers. Because there’s such a broad audience and a naturally busy atmosphere, it’s easy to see why digital signage is so prominent. As travelers, we already arrive as consumers; we’ve paid to be there. And even though there are plenty of distractions, we’re still basically a captive audience. The screens may have our attention – at least initially – but can they keep it?

I’m a frequent airport visitor; a travel veteran who typically takes 25 to 30 trips a year. Because of my experience, I’m quick to take mental notes on the signage I see. And I’ve seen good, bad, and lost opportunities, especially at my home airport, Charlotte Douglas (CLT), and, recently, at Texas’ Austin-Bergstrom (AUS).



Retailers and food service companies that manage locations within airports were early adopters of digital signage because non-traditional layouts keep space at a premium. Plus, owners must add or change content regularly (more so on menu boards, but also on informational signs). The environment also lends itself to embracing technology because the industry itself was born from and continues to grow from innovation. It’s kind of the perfect storm, and maybe only one of a few areas where the three major types of digital signage are displayed:

• In-store, meaning menu boards, P-O-P displays, or any signage in the actual store promoting those products sold there;

• Informational, including wayfinding and internal communications;

• And ad roll, representing advertising that is outside the actual location or environment.

There is little consistency or uniformity in design or hardware among these three types, typically because each is owned and managed by a different company. Despite the potential benefits of centralizing the signage – cost savings, having a general theme on design, and using the same types of screens – there are probably too many industry players involved to streamline such a feat.

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