Airport security advertising

| Comments (3) | Security: Airport
Via Interesting People, I see that TSA is starting a pilot program to show ads during security screening:
"TSA plans to launch a one-year pilot program where airport operators may enter into an agreement with vendors, who will provide divestiture bins, divestiture and composure tables, and metal-free bin return carts at no cost to TSA," said spokeswoman Amy Kudwa. "In return for the equipment, TSA will allow airport operator-approved advertisements to be displayed on the bottom of the inside of the bins."

Your average security checkpoint looks to me to have about 100 plastic bins. Comparable bins go for about $11 retail. They also have maybe 5-10 plastic tables, something like this, which goes for $150 retail. I haven't specced out the little bins you put your keys in, but let's assume they're $11/too. So, assuming we're just talking storage and not expensive stuff like metal detectors, you should be able to outfit your TSA checkpoint for under $5000. A big airport like SFO might have 10 security checkpoints, so you're looking at $50,000 one time cost (with maybe 20%/year for breakage, though these plastic tubs look pretty indestructible). That's a trivial part of the cost of running airport security. So, if vendors are really getting advertising for the cost of providing free hardware they're getting a great deal. The airports should want revenue sharing.

This brings me to my second point: incentives. The longer you spend standing around the TSA checkpoint and the more crap you have to take out of your pockets and put in separate bins the more advertising you get exposed to. The airports and TSA have some control over this, so to the extent they make money from advertising, their interests aren't really aligned with yours, which include getting through the checkpoint as fast as possible. See the clear program for another example of such an incentive conflict.

Most importantly, with all the pulling stuff out of your bag and stuffing it back in, it's pretty easy to leave things at the checkpoint, say at the bottom of your bin. In order to minimize this, you want the bottom of the bins and the tops of the tables to be as uncluttered a visual field as possible and one that is most likely to contrast with people's belongings. I'm not sure exactly what that would look like (though I'd imagine bright white, though the grey seems not terrible), but since the whole purpose of advertising is to attract people's attention to the ad, I suspect it's probably going to be pretty bad for having you notice that you left stuff in the bin. I'd much rather that TSA and the airports optimize for me not leaving my valuables at the security checkpoint than for extracting an extra few million a year from advertisers.


In order to implement this "money-saving" idea, the TSA will no doubt have to hire an advertising screener, and what do you want to guess the cost of that will exceed $50,000/year at an airport like SFO?

I'm offering to donate $500 for the ACLU to advertise. See here

Advertising the bit from the constitution about "freedom from unreasonable search and seizure" seems the most hilarious way of doing that; in the inevitable lawsuit it will be very hard for the TSA to argue that it's "unsuitable"...

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