The Advertising Apprentice

August 20, 2009

Attention People of Heathrow’s Terminal 5: You May be Cast in Alain de Botton’s Next Novel

Filed under: Advertising — adamlauzon @ 3:14 PM
Tags: ,

“The overarching objective is to make a passenger’s time at Heathrow the best memory of the trip.” – Dan Glover, Creative Director of Mischief of London which is Heathrow’s PR agency.

This statement was made as part of Mr. Glover’s explanation for why writer Alain de Botton presence in the airport for a week is a good idea. This week de Botton is the airport’s “writer in residence”. He’s staying at a hotel within the airport, he’s interviewing everyone from passengers to baggage handlers to airline executives. His observations from this week-long experience will then be organized and published in a short book entitled “A Week at the Airport: The Heathrow Diary” that is to be published in September.

I see this as a rather bold statement because according to Heathrow’s official website, Heathrow has over 66.9 million passengers per year or 183,300 per day, that pass through its five terminals. Further almost 92% of these passengers are flying internationally to locations such as New York, Paris, and Dubai, so to have the very high ambition that one’s time in Heathrow is their “best memory of the trip” shows a lot of confidence by Mr. Glover in the airport itself. Having never been to Heathrow I can’t objectively comment on the facility. 

Mr. Glover is accurate in further saying “If we funded a brochure that said how wonderful the airport was, people would switch off because they’d think they’re being marketed to.” I can see the appeal to this non-traditional form of marketing the Heathrow airport brand. Buzz will be built by the many, many passengers that will see de Botton setup in the middle of the very busy Terminal 5. Further buzz will be created when 10,000 passengers are given free copies of the book when it is published thus creating word-of-mouth advertising. The New York Times has even posted an article about the project.

Despite the huge risk that the Heathrow administration is taking with this move: everything is fair game and de Botton has creative freedom to write about anything he observes during his stay at the airport; positive, negative, or neutral; I see it as an excellent way to build and promote the desired image. As people become more aware about this promotional stunt they’re likely to pay more attention to Heathrow and may even see it as more than just a means to an ends.


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