The Spanish Revolution

Mark Lane hears how Spain’s number one out-of-home advertising company, Exterior Plus, plans to set a global benchmark for the delivery of airport advertising services, in conversation with CEO Pablo González Ayala

“Our main aim is to turn the Spanish airport environment into a global benchmark for digital out-of-home media.” There is no shortage of ambition in the words of Pablo González Ayala, CEO of Exterior Plus, a company founded in April 2018 from the integration of several Spanish outdoor advertisers.

Ayala’s proclamation comes with some solid foundations. The company is already the only Spanish media company operating in the six main areas of the out-of-home advertising sector: train stations, parking, street furniture, large format, shopping malls and airports.

Exterior Plus, which employs more than 150 people, has quickly become the leader in digital out of home in Spain, running advertising campaigns across a portfolio of more than 3,000 digital screens.

“We want to play our part in turning airports into places that offer premium experiences”
Exterior Plus CEO Pablo González Ayala

Its lofty ambitions for the airport environment are fast taking shape at nine Spanish airports: Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas, Madrid-Cuatro Vientos, Valladolid, Burgos, Salamanca, Barcelona El-Prat, Girona-Costa Brava, Reus and Sabadell.

Exterior Plus won the advertising management contract for these airports in April 2019 for a seven-year term, with an option for an additional 24 months. In the main airports at Madrid and Barcelona, the media company has announced its commitment to achieving 100% digitalisation of advertising assets.

Uber has taken a digital advertising space in the baggae claim area of Adolfo Suarez Madrid–Barajas Airport

Ayala became CEO of the Madrid-headquartered company at the time of its foundation, bringing wide experience from a career in the media sector. His career includes 11 years with CBS, where his high-ranking positions included Chief Sales Officer for the International Division and CEO for France and Spain. He also had stints working for Vodafone, Telefónica, Prisa and Blow Up Media.

He points out that, while the Spanish outdoor advertising market increase by about +2% last year, Exterior Plus saw its turnover grow by more than +11%, and it has big ambitions for this year. Ayala says: “In 2020 we are giving lots of attention to the airport operation and we are optimising the other environments to continue our above-market growth rate in Spain.”

He adds: “In recent years, the way of consuming the media has changed and, therefore, out of home must evolve along with these new trends. The audience and brands demand a much more personalised and impactful communication approach that reaches the right target at the right time.

“Our airport offer includes the creation of iconic digital screens that have never been seen before in Spain and which will allow premium digital domination in key areas of the airports, such as boarding zones, arrivals and departures. In the months that we have been managing the airports, our aim has been to optimise them with new formats and a new marketing approach to offer solutions tailored to this premium environment.”

“They [airports] are the gateway to the city and that is where brands have the opportunity to present themselves to an audience of all backgrounds and characteristics”

Two early campaigns at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport give weight to Ayala’s claims of offering a new approach to out-of-home advertising. A recent campaign to accompany the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker decorated part of the window of Terminal 4 to make it look to those in the terminal like vessels from the film were parked outside the airport.

The second campaign, for Manila Beer, sent travellers on a journey to the Philippines. The sounds of waves and forests were accompanied by barley hanging from the ceiling, with visual motifs of the brand on the walls and floor in one of the airport’s corridors.

Of these campaigns, Ayala says: “Both activities are very carefully designed and stand out from the crowd. That is our philosophy: if you want digital media, you have the best. If you want something different, we can do 360-degree activities with sound, visual impact, physical installations, and all of these integrated within areas that are of interest to the customer. We want to play our part in turning airports into places that offer premium experiences.”

Exterior Plus hit a winner with its striking positioning for Lacoste creative featuring Novak Djokovic and Selah Marley at the entrance to Barcelona El Prat Josep Tarradellas Airport

Exterior Plus has formed a dedicated innovation team for the airport segment. This team’s early projects will include the adoption of heat maps to help create an advertising portfolio in line with the passenger journey.

Ayala believes that measuring audience is a challenge his company has to face “in a consensual way” in order to offer clients a qualified return on investment. He says Exterior Plus is working with geo-location tools as a first step to achieving accurate audience measurement.

“We are the first Spanish company to implement retargeting strategies in our offer, which allows us to identify all the people who pass by our assets. In this way, we are able to have a degree of visibility and offer advertisers the possibility of making a double impact on their target audience,” he explains. “However, much remains to be done in this regard.”

Another challenge is anticipating and allowing for the changing behaviour of travellers who are spending increasing amounts of their time in airports with their eyes fixed on their mobile devices. Ayala insists that this is something the media shouldn’t fight; rather advertisers should adapt, and integrate advertising to changing customer behaviour.

“Let’s give them a branded work area where they can sit and recharge their phones, or free wifi so that they can enjoy their leisure time,” he says. “They are not only looking at their smartphones, they are also making use of the excellent airport stores and the services that they provide; that is where other media formats such as a high-quality digital or experiential brand activity can play a part. Out of home does not need constant attention to be effective. Unlike other media, simply being present in the customer journey is enough to influence their purchasing decisions.”

The Star Wars campaign was designed to “stand out from the crowd”, Ayala says

Are there any plans to expand Exterior Plus’s activities beyond Spain’s borders? Ayala replies: “It is an area that we will expand in 2020 in order to reach more customers. In the short-term, we want to consolidate our position as Spain’s number one out-of-home company and, from that basis, we can establish new international objectives.”

Asked about locations where the use of airport advertising provides inspiration for Exterior Plus’s work at Spanish airports, Ayala names London Heathrow’s Terminal 5, along with Paris Charles de Gaulle and Singapore Changi airports. These all reinforce his conviction that airports are far more than places where people merely catch flights.

He says: “They are diverse, cosmopolitan spaces where the traveller’s experience begins. The future is about enhancing all of those experiences and emotions so that the time the traveller spends in the terminals is of great value.”

Ayala concludes: “Airports must be landmarks for their cities. They are the gateway to the city and that is where brands have the opportunity to present themselves to an audience of all backgrounds and characteristics. The airports of the future must be micro-cities that are full of entertainment and service.”


Sight Lines

Issue 6 | February 2020

Sight Lines is published by The Moodie Davitt Report (Moodie International Ltd) five times a year.
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