Wilson Leach, AIN’s cofounder and managing director, published the world’s first high-quality, aviation-event dailies at the NBAA convention and exhibition in 1972. We spoke with him recently about today’s media landscape and how advertisers can profit from it.
You’ve long been an outspoken fan of print and what it can do for readers and advertisers. Can you talk about AIN’s commitment to print?
The pendulum swung violently in the direction of “print is dead” and now it’s coming back more toward the middle. Print is not dead, and I believe print will never be dead. What I’m equally positive about is that content delivery needs to fit the recipient. Some people prefer to receive their content on a smartphone, on an iPad, on a computer, or some other way, but our research has shown that many of our readers still like print. Even 20 years down the road, when a different demographic reads AIN, I still think there’ll be some mix of print and digital. But it’s the content that matters; that’s our trademark.
How can aviation advertisers in today’s tough market get the most bang for their buck?
Find a media company that you believe in—one that delivers first-rate content to the audience you want to reach—and partner with that company. You could do it with a couple of companies, but the old days where you would spread your advertising budget among 20 companies, thinking that you won’t get coverage if you don’t spend money with all of them…those days are over. You need to consolidate your budget with one or two media partners. And you can opt for print, digital, events, online, custom products, or content marketing, but it should be a mix of media and not just one.
Do you find that most advertisers understand this?
No. Most advertisers are as confused as I’ve ever seen them in my 44 years in the business. They’re not sure what works. And when you’re confused, you don’t do anything. And doing nothing is not a good option, especially in the current economic climate.
How have conventions and airshows changed since you started attending them in 1969?
Scope and scale. NBAA is a huge event now that can be accommodated in only three or four cities. We used to go to probably 10 cities. The other change is the international aspect. This year, we will do seven events. Five of them are outside the U.S. The recent EBACE event in Geneva was huge; it draws from all over Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the U.S. And our next big event is the Farnborough Airshow in July. AIN has been an official media partner at Farnborough since the 1980s and we’ve seen its audience grow and diversify immensely. The organizers have told us they are expecting about 100,000 trade delegates from 39 countries next month.
What can companies do to get the most out of these events?
The best advice I could give—and most of our clients do this—is to have prearranged meetings with customers and have customer events. It’s a great way to see people in a three-day period. Where do you touch your customer? You want to try to make that not a random meeting but a planned meeting, because it’s very competitive. Everyone’s looking for the same buyers.
So getting their attention is a challenge.
That’s where we come in, because every morning, whether at a bizav convention in the U.S. or China or at a major international airshow in Singapore, Dubai, Paris or the UK, we touch all the attendees. They want to know what’s going on at the show, so they read our magazine. In their hotel room or on the bus to the convention center, they’re going to look through our pages to see what’s going on, and that’s how our business model works.