Snapchat Spectacle Ads in TSA Bins?

Every day we see more and more ads in unexpected places. As advertisers attempt to stand out amidst the clutter of brand messaging that surrounds consumers in their everyday routines. On my trip home for Thanksgiving, one ad placement really stood out to me – ads for Snapchat’s new Spectacles on the base of my TSA bins. While I’ve seen ads placed here before, they’re usually for less reputable, or, at the very least, more relevant brands (shoes, food, etc.). Now certainly, I have to think about the fact that – hey, I noticed the ad. In fact, so much so that I ended up writing about it. But are these ad placements really good for the brand?

Honestly, I don’t think so. Certainly, Snapchat’s marketing team probably has more data, knowledge, and insight than I do; but since this caught my eye, I figured I’d give my impressions on it as a student and as a consumer.


Certainly, there are advantages to these ad placements.

  • The costs are fairly low for an incredible quantity of impressions.

The bins actually don’t belong to the TSA, nor are the advertisers renting out ad space. Snapchat has actually purchased thousands of bins and given them to the TSA to distribute at airports around the country. The cost for each of these bins is relatively low, and the TSA is more than happy to cut costs and swap out their bins every three months. As a result, the brand is receiving thousands of impressions every day – even hundreds of thousands as we approach the holidays.

  • In theory, the ads will likely generate discussion between group travellers as they head into the terminal to await their boarding calls.
  • As lines begin to stack up, the duration of impressions will increase, making the placement more effective for the cost.

snap-spectacle-21Now, all of those benefits sound ideal. It’s not an expensive ad placement and the brand is getting an unbelievable amount of impressions for what is likely a negligible price. But, let’s look at this a bit more practically.

  • What is the consumer state of mind when they see this ad?

We’ve all been there. There is nothing – nothing – pleasant about going through TSA at the airport. You’re either rushed, stressed, nervous, or afraid. As soon as you are able to snatch one of the remaining bins, you hurriedly toss all of your belongings into it under an immense amount of pressure and negative emotion. So, if the consumer even notices the ad placement at all, they are likely to associate the ad with these negative emotions.

  • The bins – no matter how frequently they are replaced – are filthy.

This is especially harmful for the bright, sleek ads placed by Snapchat. The solid-colored backing on the ads is nothing more than the perfect display of the accumulation of dirt and grime. This hurts the ad, and generates even more emotional connections of disgust and dismissal.

  • An important key to effective advertising is the ability to reach a consumer with relevant information at or near the point of purchase (or even research).

Now, if Snapchat was selling Spectacles on the other side of the terminal (they weren’t), this may make some sense. However, they end up reaching the consumer in the middle of a dead-end terminal, immediately before they jump on a plane with limited access to information search for the next several hours.

  • Along the same lines, there is no opportunity for interaction.

Impressions are good. Conversions are great. Promoters are best. Now, it’s not uncommon to advertise in airports or train stations. For example, IKEA put a successful promotion in the lobby of a train station a few years ago. The key difference here is that IKEA was able to lure consumers in and encourage them to interact with the brand and promote the event through their social media outlets. In TSA lines at the airport, your phone is out of the way, and there is no opportunity or time to encourage any sort of brand interaction or promotion.


So, my opinion of this promotion is that it’s not the best idea. Obviously there are other sources of communication in the brand’s promotional mix, and this is simply one small way of keeping the product in the consumer’s mind, but I personally think that the benefits of these impressions are greatly outweighed by the costs of the emotional connections made at the point of contact. As a result, I see these advertisements as being more harmful than helpful.