A lot has changed in the advertising world since 1974, particularly for those companies looking to capture the business traveler.
While static, nonmoving images still have their place, the explosive growth of digital and integration of interactive ads that enhance passenger experience has pushed one airport advertiser to the forefront.
For 40 years, Clear Channel Airports, a major branch of the global media company Clear Channel Outdoor, has been building awareness of the many products made in the region by placing advertising at Lehigh Valley International Airport in Hanover Township, Lehigh County.
What many may not know is that Clear Channel Airports, which has a worldwide reach, is headquartered in the Lehigh Valley.
The company began its partnership with LVIA in 1974 as part of a local advertising agency’s specialty project, which grew into a portfolio of airport media programs with a global airport footprint, spanning North America, Europe, the Caribbean, New Zealand and Australia.
Through the years, Clear Channel Airports continues to deliver and grow revenues for the Lehigh Northampton Airport Authority by selling advertising space in the airport.
In 2013, Clear Channel Airports generated its highest annual revenue level since the 2008 recessionary onset. It was one of its highest grossing years in the history of the partnership despite recent traffic challenges at LVIA and amid airline mergers and air service contraction industry wide.
The firm began as Interspace Airport Advertising in 1974 on Crackersport Road in South Whitehall Township. In 2006, Clear Channel Outdoor – owned by Clear Channel Communications – acquired Interspace Airport Advertising and moved its existing airport media headquarters from Chicago to the South Whitehall Township location and consolidated as Clear Channel Interspace Airports. In 2009, it changed its name to Clear Channel Airports.
“They are a high-profile company located in Lehigh County,” said Don Cunningham, president and CEO of Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. “It’s one that folks don’t think about when they think about corporate headquarters.
“It’s always nice even when there are mergers and acquisitions when the company remains.”
Today, the firm serves more than 280 airports throughout the world and employs 140 people, said John Moyer, senior vice president of airport development, general manager for Clear Channel Airports.
Clear Channel operates in 15 of the top 25 airports in the U.S., including four of the top five (Atlanta, Chicago O’Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth and Denver) as well as Philadelphia.
“We’ve matured the industry; we’ve been doing it for 40 years,” Moyer said.
The community showcase program at LVIA is an example of how Clear Channel strives to play a role not only in welcoming passengers to the airport but highlighting the companies that call the Valley its home.
“We create a really nice sense of place and tie it together,” said Lucas Yezik, director of business development for Clear Channel Airports.
Between employee sales training sessions and flights, Clear Channel contributes about $250,000 per year to LVIA, Moyer said. Also included in this amount are Clear Channel’s employee contributions to parking, concessions, rental car fees and badge processing fees for fingerprints and clearance.
In the partnership with LVIA, Yezik said Clear Channel provides a direct payment that averages $150,000 per year. In 2007, Clear Channel paid $148,120, and in 2013 it paid $153,648. Clear Channel sells and collects on all accounts and then pays the authority its revenue share percentage.
“We pay them a higher percentage than we would pay similar size airports,” Moyer said.
With respect to creating an advertising campaign, Clear Channel focuses on connecting a passenger with a service, such as free apps, charging stations and other digital ads. LVIA is overdue for these products, according to Yezik.
Ad messages have changed from the standard five-foot, noninteractive sign to the ability for a passenger to scan an image on an ad and download a free song to a smartphone before a flight.
The move to mobile is one of the biggest and most noticeable trends in airport advertising, with mobile apps as a popular method. Also, ads on large walls have bigger impact.
“A lot of these are local advertisers; you are creating this showcase of economic prosperity,” Moyer said. “As it transforms more to digital, the impact gets into the millions. To the target audience, that’s really where the return is.”
Architects decide ad locations, too, and integration of an ad into the infrastructure of a building is important, Moyer said.
Both Moyer and Yezik said Clear Channel provides not only revenue generation for the airport but services that enhance the passenger experience.
“We’ve been with them a long time, a minimum of 15 years,” said Matthew Pye, vice president of trade relations and corporate affairs for Just Born Inc. of Bethlehem, the manufacturer of Peeps and other nationally known candy brands.
Just Born created many ads that Clear Channel placed throughout LVIA.
“We do a lot of national advertising; we thought it was important to advertise our company and our brand,” Pye said. “We have a lot of visitors coming in and out of there. Our displays and advertising have been mostly around the baggage area.”
Near the security area at LVIA, Clear Channel placed a wall mural that highlights the Just Born exhibit at Segal Museum in Easton and the Peeps & Co. retail location in the Outlets at Sands Bethlehem. It shows travelers these products are made in the Lehigh Valley, Pye said.
“The airport is very important to us because we have hosted some companies there,” Pye said. “… It’s good for them to know about the brands that are made here.”
C.F. Martin & Co. Inc. in Nazareth is another company that showcases its products through Clear Channel’s advertising displays.
“When visitors fly into the Lehigh Valley Airport, we want them to instantly realize that world-famous Martin guitars are crafted right here in Nazareth,” said Dick Boak, director of museum, archives and special projects for C.F. Martin.
“It is also important to us to extend our open invitation for everyone to come to the Martin Museum and Visitors Center for a fascinating tour of the factory.”