At Reno-Tahoe International Airport, people pass by them all the time without giving them much thought. The wall-mounted, backlit signs and video digital screens in baggage claim that run 30-second spots seem like casual teasers. Advertisements hang from above, strategically placed underneath skylights throughout the terminal to help promote concessions and other non-airline services. Even column banners with a splash of color grab attention to a business or special event.
Younger Agency of Reno is responsible for the production and installation of those signs, combining its traditional public relations niche with advertising, sales and marketing – and it's tapping into the Sparks area, as well.
"We were the county's contract PR firm for several years," founder and president Liz Younger said of her agency’s work with Washoe County. "In 1995, we got a call from the Reno airport to look at its advertising program."
Foot traffic at Golden Eagle Regional Park, Sparks' largest public work, also is exposed to Younger's work with banner poles and vinyl backboard signs on the ballfields.
"We have a similar program (with the airport) with Sparks Parks and Recreation," Younger said. "(The signage) has been received very well. Most people don't realize how beautiful that park is. It's huge. Over a million people are passing through it, at least this year. We get a good response from local companies wanting to let everybody know they're around."
The demand for these signs is growing. To help with production, Younger recently hired Angela DeRicco Wilber, a Sparks High graduate and native of Sparks, as a sales coordinator for the Reno-Tahoe airport. Wilber is becoming acquainted with Younger's in-house process and already she loves what she's doing.
"I wanted a new path in my career," Wilber said. "I wanted something new to do and with the market the way it was, I wanted to start something and close that chapter and move forward."
Wilber is new to the public relations field, but she will be one of Younger's staff of 11 to help sell advertising space with signage.
The "niche business," as Younger called it, takes time to learn, especially with the airport, for which creating signs is often a big project.
The advertising is targeted toward incoming passengers as they're "wayfinding" with directional signage, Younger said.
"It has the most appeal to companies trying to reach people coming into the area," she said, explaining that her program with airport officials has identified multiple areas for high-quality signage and eye-catching floor displays. Upstairs, however, in the "holdrums" — where the gates are located — the individual airlines are responsible for providing advertising to passengers waiting to board, she said.
"A big part of the problem is that it takes three or four or five minutes to walk down the concourse, which has video signs for 'dwell time' as passengers make their way to baggage claim," she said.
The backlit signs, however, are useful in promoting the region’s hotels and entertainment.
The Younger Agency is dependent on its ability to create eye-catching ads. The agency's charges for its services per thousand people who see their signs.
"It's consistent with what the industry runs against billboards, print and radio and TV rates," Younger said. "We know how many people are going through the ballpark. We know how many are going through the airport."
Younger said her company helped design a program incorporating signage, invoicing and concessions.
"At the time, management said they wanted a program that would generate more revenue for the airport in non-airline revenues, which is food and beverages and parking," Younger said. "That's a very important part of airport revenue that helps keep the airlines interested in our market."
Soon after, Boise Airport put out a bid for a contract with a public relations firm and Younger got it.
Younger also helps with interfacing and in-house advertising production for Eugene Airport in Oregon. She spends quite a bit of time every month visiting her other offices in Boise, Dallas and San Diego serving her western clients.
"It's been our business plan to be able to build a base of businesses that we can reach," Younger said. "We're doing a lot of traveling to really understand what's going on in the airline industry. We felt as we got into business, there's demand and opportunity to be successful."
Even with the sluggish economy, Younger does not worry about her clientele or her own business.
"(The airline industries) have their challenges. Once we get the election over with, this fuel thing hopefully will begin to ride itself out. In some ways, people are flying more and driving less when they take a vacation. The statistics bear out that they are traveling."