The latest thought piece from our Chief Operating Officer, Ben Putland, in our New York office.

A few weeks ago I swapped the freezing temperatures of New York to bask in the warmth of LA. Whilst I was there I had a guided tour of the digital installation inside the Thomas Bradley terminal at LAX courtesy of our friends at JCDecaux.

I remember when the terminal opened in September 2013 it was billed as the largest media installation of any US airport with the objective to enhance the passenger experience and bring back the romance of air travel. But it’s the content running on all that hardware that creates the romance and wow factor.

Awe inspiring scale

If you’re arriving or departing the terminal the first thing that hits you is the scale of the Bon Voyage and Welcome Walls. The difference to other giant screens is that these are sympathetic to the environment and don’t have to compete with other screens or media. The giant goldfish swimming through the sky is totally surreal and the other abstract concepts are calming and pleasing to the eye.

Bon Voyage and the 8 Storey Welcome Wall 

A dash of dynamic DOOH

If you’re departing you get to see the rest of the experience as the other three parts located in the Grand Hall. Personally the Time Tower was the strongest part of the installation. It’s the best use of an elevator shaft I’ve ever seen; it felt so alive with seamless transitions from state to states with the nice touch of a clock that tells the right time. The Destination Board has some elegant dynamic features such as weather updates for the departure destinations but they’re not the classic vector images and weather icons, they are made up of great images that make you want to keep looking.

Time Tower and Part of the Destination Board Time Tower

Potential earned media

Head to the north or south concourses and you will pass the Portals, which are eight individual towers that as you approach appear to be a single screen. It makes them quite fun as you can have a single image running across them all or eight individual images. There are motion sensors built in so that some of the graphics react as people walk past and they also include some subtle touches to do with the destinations. But what they really packed was a punch of vibrant colour and that colour attracted people like flowers attract bees, of all the parts of the installation this is where I saw the most people taking photos.
The Portals

It’s not Advertising, so what is it?

It was Jef I Richards who said “Creative without strategy is called art. Creative with strategy is called advertising.” Now there was a strategy for this installation but it’s definitely not advertising and it feels more like art. It’s an experience that blurs the line between art and advertising, it’s something you are happy to be around, it’s intriguing and creates wonder. This is the new standard in large-scale digital installations and any new installation needs to be as least as good if not better.

How can it work for brands?

There is a huge opportunity for brands to deliver a jaw-dropping experience (not an ad) at this gateway to Asia, but getting the creative to work half as well as what’s there is definitely a challenge given most campaigns have only a few months of production time available. By using our 2015 mantra “SMART” – Strategic, Measurable, Artistic, Relevant, and Technological – we have a framework to deliver effective and engaging experiences on time and budget. Here’s how I would do it.

  1. Strategic content creation. It needs to be subtle but entertaining content that gives a nudge and a wink towards the brand so it dovetails with the environment and existing content, definitely avoid using any “make my logo bigger” cream.
  2. Measurement can be achieved by the user engaging through another channel such as social media or an online activation that can be directly tied back to LAX and then cross-referenced with existing footfall figures.
  3. Artistic flare is extremely important, it must appeal to a wide ethnic diversity, hold their attention, invoke emotion, create a sense of wonder and feel like magic.
  4. Relevant to the terminal but also to the traveller and their destinations, the current content already does this but there are lots of ways to push the concept further. Knowing how to tell your story across the seven screens and not loose the relevance is an art in itself.
  5. Technology must go hand-in-hand with creativity but can also be linked to measurement. How about Tweeting and/or texting to change the state of the Time Tower.

Time is not money, time is art.