The Customer Experience Voyage

When you spend as much time analyzing Internet advertising as I do, everything recalls online media — even when you’re not online. Toronto’s Pearson International Airport is the last place I thought I’d experience this. Yet there I was, returning from a trip to Canada and drawing parallels between what I saw and what I see on the Web.

If you haven’t been to Canada’s busiest airport, you’re missing out. From the flat-screen TV monitors in the baggage claim area to the spotless touch-free bathrooms in the parking garage, it’s clear the designers had customer experience very firmly in mind.

During my visit, each escalator entrance was flanked by a sign cautioning travelers to observe standard safety precautions. The automated parking payment kiosks reminded me to retrieve my validated ticket, mimicking a particularly helpful cashier. The entire encounter was striking and smooth, like the frosted-glass catwalks that soared two stories above. Every detail was addressed, then improved upon.

Customer experience is also paramount in media buying. Regardless of which format and placement we choose, we must always consider how consumers will interact with and respond to our ads. Will the technology you employ enhance their online experience or cause needless frustration? Could your ads evoke the same reaction in Internet users that Pearson Airport evokes in its visitors?

If so, you’ve crafted a campaign without apparent flaws in its structure. But if you expect you may not be serving your customers as well as you should, perhaps this exceptional airport can offer some direction… beyond the way to Gate P.


An airport built without attention to consumer convenience is like a banner that can’t be clicked: confusing, pointless, and disappointing. The degree to which Pearson heeds customer convenience on the ground is the degree to which media buyers should do so online.

This relates most to media placement and the effort to offer Internet users useful information. A special offer on brand-name cosmetics might not be of use to teenage boys, but target style-conscious women and the offer’s value increases dramatically.

Deliver the ad message in association with related online content through contextual advertising, and it becomes even more appealing. What could be more convenient than a sale on the very product line you happen to be researching online (except, perhaps, fresh sushi at every turn)?

Ease of Navigation

This is something inherent at Pearson, and which doesn’t apply to Web designers alone. Modern ad units can act as microsites in and of themselves, providing everything an Internet user might want and need to know. It’s essential media planners and buyers ensure the units they choose don’t lead consumers astray.

If you employ an expandable banner, for instance, it ought to be vividly apparent to people not only that the ad can be expanded, but how it’s done and why. If you don’t think your target audience is Internet savvy enough to navigate an expandable unit, don’t invest time and money in an attempt to teach them. Always keep their needs and existing habits in mind. Be sure they know where to go and how to get there.

Modern Amenities

Although it’s important to buy media based on your target audience’s profile, online clutter often requires us to push the envelope. Not all visitors to Pearson will fully appreciate the airport’s modern look, but they’ll likely enjoy its progressive amenities and remember their experience because of it.

This holds equally true in the interactive world where emerging technologies such as podcasting, mobile marketing, and Internet TV offer marketers an opportunity to differentiate themselves while providing something of value to consumers. My personal taste is more classic than starkly contemporary, but I won’t soon forget which airport it was that entertained me with current TV programming while quickly delivering my bags.

That’s what I call first-class service.

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