About eight years ago, The Elizabeth Younger Agency in Reno was asked to make a pitch to take over management of the advertising inside the Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
Today, much to the surprise of ad agency owner Liz Younger, management of advertising programs inside airport terminals accounts for the largest share of the company's business.
And if Younger has her way, the company will double its presence in the niche market.
"It was an opportunity, and we've been able to grow it," Younger said.
The opportunity presented itself in 1995, when managers of the Reno airport began looking for ways to increase the revenue they were able to generate from the advertising inside the airport advertising that today ranges from displays on concourse walls to banners over luggage carousels.
At the time, The Elizabeth Younger Agency was largely a public relations and special events firm that didn't have a deep exposure to the advertising business.
But the firm did have one thing that airport officials desired: "They wanted someone who understood this market," Younger said last week.
Competing against a big national company, The Elizabeth Agency won the local contract.With its first threeyear contract, the company managed to double the airport's advertising revenue.
That's important to the airport and ultimately to the community because airport management in Reno and elsewhere look for every way they can to wring additional revenue out of sources other than airlines.
That, in turn, allows them to control the fees they charge airlines to use the airport, helping to keep the facility competitive for additional service.
It proved important as well to The Elizabeth Younger Agency.
The company won the advertising concession at the expanded airport in Boise, a contract signed just after the Sept.
11, 2001, attacks.
The expanded terminal opened this summer.
Between the signing of the contract and the opening of the terminal, employees of the Reno company worked a couple of days a month lining up advertising contracts in southern Idaho.
To the surprise of no one, they discovered the market in Boise is dramatically different from the market in Reno.
In Reno, airport advertising has been dominated by casino and hotel properties that want to tell arriving passengers about shows and dining specials.
Younger said commercial real estate companies have begun taking a greater interest in airport advertising in Reno, and some companies notably,Washoe Medical Center have used airport advertising to woo new workers.
But still, the Reno market is weighted heavily toward entertainment and dining.
"Boise is totally different," said Younger.
"There, we have almost all the hotels but they are business-related hotels."
Younger would like to win advertising concessions at a couple more similarsized airports in the region, figuring that a group of airports might prove more attractive to advertisers wanting to make a regional buy.
The company keeps close tabs on the dates that advertising contracts expire at airports around the West.
But Younger doesn't want the effort to grow too much larger.
The competitive advantage of The Elizabeth Younger Agency, she said, is the service it brings to advertisers and airport operators a like service that could easily become eroded if the company takes on too many contracts.