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  • content and pervasive creativity

Content Companion

American Express turned its advertising into a service to help beleaguered air travelers.

Content Companion

A few decades ago, air travel was still considered by many to be a glamorous thing–something nearly as exotic as outer-space travel. That era is gone. Air travel has become instead kind of an exercise in hassle avoidance: You arrive at an airport hoping for it all to go smoothly and without extraordinary delay.

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That’s fine, but it’s not a particularly lofty ambition. Together, American Express and Toronto’s Pearson International Airport saw great untapped potential in that time spent waiting. What if we could take that idle time and make it useful and valuable? As Canada’s largest airport, Pearson is a major North American gateway that welcomes more than 33 million visitors a year, each of them spending an average of two and a half hours in the facility. Like most airports, it is awash in brand messages. But even at their interactive best, these messages are still mostly relegated to the confines of a screen: They are things you read or watch or listen to. We wanted to redefine those limitations.

Our Pearson initiative, called “Cloud 10,” isn’t just advertising or sponsorship or prospect engagement or customer experience–it’s all those things bound together by a ribbon of assets that simultaneously serve and entertain, helping to ease the way for travelers beset these days by unforeseen obstacles and frustrating delays. Cloud 10 is all about the experience–not just an ad that you read or watch but also a way of bringing the brand to life by enlisting it as an ally in your travels. This extends to everyone, not just Amex Card members. Under the initiative, Amex provides all airport visitors with free WiFi and branded areas set up beyond security checkpoints where travelers can take a seat and a drink of water, use a shoehorn, and spend a few moments gathering themselves before moving on. And beginning this year, we are offering entertainment via digital downloads and through hundreds of iPads at restaurants and food-service stations throughout the airport.

At the heart of the campaign is the kind of content–and parallel service–that smooths the airport journey for Card members. Valet parking services, discounts on car detailing, and exclusive taxi and limo privileges are just the beginning. The special treatment ramps up based on the type of card you carry and includes access to premium lounges, and a real delight that any traveler would enjoy: an exclusive security lane. No more long line ups with more twists and turns than a mountain road through the Alps through. At each step of the way, the Cloud 10 story unfolds with signage explaining the next service offered, leaving travelers with a clear notion of the benefits of Card membership.

Of course, that’s what this is all about. We made sure that people saw the connection to our brand campaign all the while promoting membership benefits specific to both weary road warriors and family vacationers. The campaign so far is credited with attracting quite a few new premium Card members But the benefits go beyond an increase in sales. The whole partnership approach between Amex and the airport is built around making travelers happier. We could have put more investment into advertising but with this approach where the experience and the content become part of the very brand itself, we all benefit: The airport wins, the brand wins, and visitors most of all.


David Barnes is Vice President, International Public Affairs and Communications at American Express Canada.

[Railway Station: Everett Collection via Shutterstock]