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Rome Fiumicino has been upgraded to a world leading digitalised airport

With a myriad of historical and architectural landmarks, a restless nightlife, and world renowned gastronomy and fashion, Rome caters to a distinguished demographic. It was therefore natural to see the nearby Fiumicino Airport upping its game to display advertisements from premium brands for whom proper representation is sacrosanct.

With 40 million passengers served in 2015 alone, Rome’s Fiumicino Airport is also the largest airport in Italy, and one of the busiest in Europe. Hindering Fiumicino’s advertising revenue expectations was an out-of-date advertising asset, which drove Aeroporti di Roma (ADR) to appoint Clear Channel Italy in December 2013 to transform the airport’s advertising program, a decision in line with ADR’s major investments planned to improve all areas of the airport. Thanks to Clear Channel and several spectacular digital products procured from Absen, over the past two years, Rome Fiumicino has been transformed into one of the most digitalised airports in the world.

From the tender phase through to personally designing an entirely new advertising programme, selecting suppliers and overseeing sales, Jonathan Goldsmid – airports director for Clear Channel Italy – has been responsible for leading this project. Goldsmid opted to utilise Absen products to get the job done, citing their “premium quality”, “reliability” and “price-to-quality ratio” as the key attributes that led to the decision.”

For some of the more bespoke and cutting-edge installations, Clear Channel chose to use the Absen A2 product, due to the short viewing distance for passengers. With a pixel pitch of just 2.5mm, the A2’s resolution really was perfect for the task at hand.

Goldsmid insists that Clear Channel is “not into digital for the sake of digital,” and that “Clear Channel employs a number of different formats that cater to different advertising needs.” However, Goldsmid acknowledges that an airport of Fiumicino’s scale will “automatically look to digital as a key part of their advertising asset strategy. During the deliberation process , the three words that came to underpin the transformation of the airport advertising at Fiumicino were ‘innovation’, ‘technology’, and ‘premium quality’, something which the Absen A2 encapsulated perfectly.

Nacho Perez Borjabad, senior director advertising market for Absen Europe, concurs with this approximation of the A2’s virtues: “Here at Absen we pride ourselves on the aesthetics, ergonomics, bionics and resulting versatility of our products. The fact that Clear Channel entrusted the Absen A2 on a project of this scale is a great vote of confidence.

“From the 160 degree viewing angle to the incredible pixel pitch, contrast and image quality, the A2 is a leap forward for LED screens as a whole” insists Perez.

One of the core objectives of Clear Channel’s advertising redevelopment strategy for Fiumicino was to create the opportunity for brands to really ‘stand out’, be that through the installation of spectacular large format opportunities or the installation of tactical digital advertising networks. We effectively started with a blank slate and created what we believe to be one of the world’s best examples of digital advertising, with Absen supplying the LED products.

Over the past two years, this multi-million euro project dramatically changed the advertising approach for Fiumicino airport. The project began with the removal of almost every outdated panel across the airport, and operating under the mantra ‘less is more’, Clear Channel reduced the number of squares metres of advertising by approximately 40%.

One of the signature products installed by Clear Channel has been four impressive large digital columns that dominate the airport’s C Gate area. Booked exclusively by Chanel, and comprising 61.44 square metres of 4-sided LED Absen A2s. The resulting effect was one of seamlessness, which Goldsmid professed to be “absolutely phenomenal, especially along with the content that Chanel displayed on there”.

Subsequently, two huge Absen AI06 LED screens were set up in Terminal 3s check-in hall – the airport’s main international terminal. The Absen AI06 possesses a pixel pitch of 6.25mm, and measures 8 x 4.5m, effectively delivering coverage to 100% of the passengers within the vicinity. The lower resolution of these screens – compared to the A2 – was offset by the viewing distance, typically around 10 – 15m. Fortunately for Clear Channel, the AI06’s mere 85mm panel depth and 16kg panel weight facilitated the installation process. Making life easier is a running theme in Absen’s screens, exemplified by that fact that the module, power supply and receiving card can be accessed from the front, rapidly improving maintenance speed if a problem arises.

Also installed during the project were two other models in Absen’s high definition line-up – the AI03 and AI05. The award-winning AI03 boasts a 3.9mm pixel pitch, while the AI05 has a pp of 5.2. Both are replete with the staples of the HD range: full front access, a total depth of only 150mm (1/5 of traditional screens), low power consumption, superior consistency down to 20% brightness, and a magnetic module design that enables five times quicker installation than the average screw module.

Terminal 1’s check-in hall, which serves as the hub for Alitalia & Sky Team flights to domestic & Schengen destinations, received two large Absen AI03 LED screens, each with a pixel pitch of 3.9mm and were immediately sold on an exclusive basis to Conde Nast, as the brand realised the benefit of using the digital immediacy to change content between the different magazines within their portfolio. Installed last in the check-in area was a 36sqm AI05 screen sandwiched between 2 traditional lightboxes

Also significant was the inclusion of a 12sqm AI03 display in the area for non-Schengen arrivals. Much like the A2, the 12sqm A103 was relatively close to passengers, and since it was exclusively utilised by Prada the panel had to be exceptionally reliable, readable and vivid.

Perhaps the biggest challenge during the project came in the form of Fiumicino’s Pier B, the main pier for Alitalia & Sky Team flights to Domestic & Schengen destinations. Classed as a “very premium business audience & environment” by Goldsmid, the area required not only a more extensive reworking but implicitly raised the pressure owing to the clientele therein. In the same manner that Clear Channel digitalised the four columns for Chanel in C Gate, they did so in Pier B but with 10 columns – or 131.04 square metres – of Absen A2s. Goldsmid is particularly proud of the column configuration, which stretches from one end of the area to the other.

By the very nature of the airport environment, the installation process wasn’t without its challenges. Undertaking a large-scale project such as this in any ‘live’ venue is problematic, but Fiumicino’s large breadth of operating hours; high volume of foot traffic; the columns’ close proximity to a boarding gate; and endemic access restrictions and security protocols all posed another level of challenge.

Because all ‘long term’ operatives had to pass an airport training day, and all materials needed to run past security before entering the site, forward planning of provisioning materials was essential.

Since maintenance could only occur for a fixed period at night, Absen’s products had to be superlative in their reliability. “We didn’t want to face the risk of maintenance problems so quality and reliability were paramount for everyone involved” said Goldsmid.

Due to the airport’s rejuvenated digital landscape, Goldsmid states that “advertisers are now flocking back to Fiumicino”. It was crucial for Clear Channel to view the airport’s lack of advertising viability from the perspective of consumers just as much as the brands themselves. “Airports are so much more than mere transit points for people these days; they are fundamentally seen as part of the travel experience, and so airports are investing heavily to create exciting, innovative added value experiences for passengers.

Goldsmid is optimistic about the prospect of a continued partnership with Absen: “Our relationship with Absen Internationally has been a good one. They have listened to us intently throughout the process and haven’t shied away from making the necessary investments to improve and maintain the relationship.

As to whether Clear Channel Italy would work with Absen again, Goldsmid concludes: “From a product perspective, absolutely. They’re also investing very much in their client services and support teams so they can remain a viable partner post-sale. We have discussed the potential for working together again in the future and I have no reason why we wouldn’t at this juncture.”

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