A road less travelled

We are creatures of habit. We tend to adopt the same breakfast routine, follow the usual route to work, ease into the standard evening relaxation rituals. Of course we don’t literally do the same thing every single day, but there’s a fair degree of consistency in what we eat, how we travel, where we visit online, and pretty much all the other media we consume. And, without doubt, this has a bearing on how we engage with advertising.

We’ll generally be more attentive to external stimuli when we’re alert, focused, and active, and less so when bored or operating on autopilot. That’s not to say that we don’t take in information when in “routine” mode, just that it happens in a more “implicit” way – what Robert Heath famously described as Low Involvement Processing.

Most of our purchasing behaviour is habitual or routine too. Sausages and peanut butter land in my supermarket trolley because they did last week, last month, last year. All of which is absolutely fine – if we had to consciously deliberate every single purchase and actively consider every advertising message to which we’re exposed we’d pretty soon lose the plot, or at least run out of hours in the day in which to get it all done. So the process works in our favour, it helps us function.

But how valuable is it if we can pinpoint moments when consumers are snapped out of their “trance of habituality” and all of a sudden find themselves “back in the room”? What a valuable opportunity we then have to capitalise on these brief zones of attentiveness and generate some High Involvement with our message. Of course this isn’t a new media idea. It’s part of the appeal of “appointment to view” TV programming, experiential activity, behavioural targeting etc.

And of course it’s also part of the appeal of advertising at the airport. Even in this era of budget flying and regular global travel the airport is still a special place. It’s dramatic, aspirational, unique. You could even argue that it’s not really a place at all. It’s where we go when we’re between places. I stumbled across a quote recently that summed this up rather well – “Airports are the movies we step into for a few hours between two real worlds”. Not routine, not somewhere we drift through. It’s where things happen, a world of possibility, and consequently a great place to get advertising noticed.

Steve Cox is Marketing Director of JCDecaux Airport.