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Making an impression on Concourse A

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I've yet to meet a business traveler who looked forward to business travel. United Airlines' terrific TV spots notwithstanding, those of us who travel often have learned to survive the routine hassles of entering and leaving airports by entering a kind of self-induced trance. This is especially true at the security check-point: Remove laptop from bag, take off shoes, take off belt, put loose change and favorite pen in dish, smile pleasantly and nonthreateningly at TSA personnel, retrieve items from other side ...

After leaving the checkpoint, we're on automatic pilot until reaching our assigned gate. At that point, we set up our remote offices-pulling out cell phones, PDAs, BlackBerries, laptop computers and iPods. This works flawlessly, unless there's a family with rambunctious toddlers in the lounge (what are kids doing in the office?) or we notice in horror that one of our gadgets is about to run out of power. Crouching though the lounge area, desperately searching for an open electrical outlet, makes us feel the way, I imagine, a goldfish on a carpet feels.

In such a setting, it's fair to ask, do those large-format ads along the concourses register at all on our psyches?

"You're not taking it in-it's really tough," said Chris Philip, senior VP-media director at Doremus, about airport signage. However, Doremus is a strong believer in targeted outdoor advertising, particularly in New York City.

But to make an impression on Concourse A, you need something big, Philip said. He admires, for example, the World Bank of Scotland-not a Doremus client-that bought extensively in and around Delta's shuttle at New York's LaGuardia Airport. "They owned all the real estate as opposed to buying a scattering of dioramas, " Philip said.

My personal bugaboo is testimonial ads in airports, seemingly a favorite format among the technology advertisers that dominate this setting. Testimonials aren't bad per se; rather, they're on the edge of creepy-seeing the same person, in the same airport, over and over during a heavy month of travel. "Get lost, buddy," I mutter to myself as I rush past one of these billboards on the way to my gate.

Breaking through a traveler's trance has always been tough. But nowadays, how do you capture their attention when they are busy-one is tempted to say, addicted-to reading remote e-mail or checking news headlines from a wireless device?

Or maybe wireless is an opportunity?

Senior Editor Kate Maddox's feature story in this issue's "Advertising" section (p. 18) looks at one of the earliest examples of b-to-b wireless ads. FedEx Corp., for example, started an ad campaign last July on Vindigo to promote the launch of FedEx Kinko's copy and printing centers. Interestingly, the FedEx ads on Vindigo included an interactive component: the ability to click on a link and download addresses for nearby FedEx Kinko's locations. Ross Dobson, senior VP-marketing at Digitas, says in the story that when it comes to PDAs and cell phones, marketing messages must be "highly relevant and solution-based, so the information is welcomed by the user instead of being seen as intrusive."

Finding new ways to engage the mobile professional, working with and not against his or her precious portable technology, is a fascinating idea-and one that is only now beginning to be explored.

Ellis Booker is editor of BtoB and BtoB's Media Business and can be reached at ebooker@crain.com

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