Cincinnati Goes Digital to Convert Static Terminal Ads to Video

Jim Faber
Published in: 

Passengers at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport now have a little more eye candy to help keep them entertained and informed.

That's because advertising concessionaire Corey Airport Services has converted most of the airport's static advertising displays to LCD panels for video advertising. Nearly 50 LCD monitors, each measuring 46 inches, and a bank of new touch-screen hotel kiosks were added at a total cost of about $320,000.


Before Corey assumed the advertising concession about two years ago, airport advertising consisted of back-lit poster boxes and customers used a 1970s-style phone bank to call local hotels. "We knew immediately what needed to be done," recalls Bill Batty, who runs the airport advertising for Corey.


The static posters were uninteresting, difficult to update and just lacked the pizzazz expected at a major airport like Cincinnati International, a busy Delta hub with more than 420 flights daily.

Win, Win, Win

Converting the ad displays to video LCDs has provided advantages for advertisers, passengers and the airport itself.

"Advertisers love it," Batty reports. "There's an appeal in that type of medium."

 Variety and volume are factors, too. Up to four different messages can rotate through a single video screen. And changes can be made with a few clicks on a computer, instead of manually removing posters.

Creating a video advertisement can be challenging for some advertisers, but Corey works with clients to create a video presence, even if it is as simple as adding some sort of motion to an existing static advertisement, notes Batty.


Facts & Figures

Project: LCD Video Screen Installation

Location: Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky

International Airport Advertising Concessionaire: Corey Airport Services

Integrator: Alpine Systems

LCD Manufacturer: NEC

Scope: Nearly 50 LCD monitors, 46" each

Also Added: Bank of touch-screen hotel kiosks

Cost: $320,000

Project time: Roughly two years

The Need: To replace outdated, static advertising posters with dynamic video content

Added Benefit: Airport can use screens to display emergency information

Getting high-definition artwork from advertisers for use on the displays has been the biggest challenge of the project, reports George Cone of Alpine Systems, which integrated the new technology at the airport.


With screens throughout the holding areas and above major escalators, advertisers can target messages to a specific area of the airport to reach specific customers or to limit costs.

The book Crosley, for instance, was broadly advertised during the holiday season. Ad placement at the Cincinnati airport made sense because the Crosley family owned the Cincinnati Reds, so the book was of special interest to locals. It was also promoted and sold at the airport bookshop.

The new ad medium is also a hit with travelers because it provides something of interest as they wait for flights. Above two main escalators is what Dave Kellerman, the airport's retail manager calls the "big splash." It's a massive bank of 15 LCD screens wired together to show a single message. Each screen is 46 inches with just a 3/8-inch frame or bezel around it, allowing them to blend together visually.

From the airport's perspective, having newer, more modern advertising in the terminal is only a plus.

"We really like the upgrade," reports Kellerman. "Corey delivered at least what they promised and more."

Walking through the airport, Kellerman has heard many passengers comment on how the LCD screens loaded with dynamic, entertaining advertising help distract them from the drabness of travel.

According to the screen manufacturer, NEC, wall displays like the one at Cincinnati help reduce perceived wait times among travelers while promoting local businesses.

In a Pinch

The biggest advantage of the airport's new LCDs is something officials hope never to use. Corey will allow the airport to use the screens to convey information and vital news updates during emergency situations such as natural disasters.

Those capabilities haven't been called into play yet, but it is reassuring just to have them, notes Kellerman.

The airport can also use the screens as a digital public address system to inform travelers of less urgent, but useful information. It additionally runs welcome messages from the city and airport promotional messages. On an even lighter note, the airport used the network of screens to spread seasonal messages of cheer during the winter holidays.

"The decision to add digital signage has been valuable for the airport's business, and the use of video walls brings something unique to our spaces while maintaining a constructive purpose," Kellerman summarizes.

Tech Specs

The roughly 50 LCD video screens cost about $320,000 to install and integrate. And according to Mike Zmuda, director of business development NEC, they are much tougher than consumer-grade devices. The LCDs, for instance, can withstand the temperature and humidity changes of being next to an exterior door in the Midwest. They can handle direct sunlight while delivering a crisp image and are resistant to fading. And they're designed to run 24 hours per day for at least five years without major issues, says Zmuda.

Depending on the type of signal the screens use, the computer running them can be out of sight as much as 300 feet away.

Cincinnati International's 3-foot x 5-foot multi-screen display above the escalators is one of the first installations of large LCD matrix screens, says Cone of Alpine Systems.

At first, LED screens were considered for the project, but using LCDs was much more cost effective and created dazzling high-resolution images, Cone explains.

"The site location and project technology choices at (the airport) have provided a media system that is unequaled," he says. "Corey has a system that every traveler has to see, and the locations installed assure the advertisers that their message gets across."

While Corey, NEC and Alpine Systems completed the installation of the screens prior to the holiday season, updating the advertising that runs on them is an ongoing process, Batty notes.

In addition to installing the LCD screens, Corey replaced the bank of hotel phones with a series of touch-screen kiosks to make communication between travelers and hotels more modern and easier.

Corey also plans to roll out a pilot program in the spring featuring a handful of LED screen kiosks throughout the passenger terminal. The kiosks will allow travelers to interact with the advertisements on screen instead of just watching them on the wall, says Batty.

Even more technology options may be on their way for Cincinnati and other airports. There are already systems on the market that provide viewers carrying RFIDs (radio-frequency identification devices) with personalized information when they pass a screen. Currently, such systems are used predominantly in hotels to provide guests with information such as convention schedules and daily offerings.

According to Zmuda at NEC, plenty of potential marketplaces, including many airports, will make the switch to digital signage in the next few years. NEC currently has the largest worldwide market share for digital signage displays at 23.1%.


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