Baggage belts carrying ads at Atlanta airport

The Atlanta airport and its advertising contractor are trying an unconventional method of targeting captive audiences at the world's busiest air hub.

In a campaign starting this month, Oscar Mayer ads appear on baggage claim carousels in the north terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson International, where AirTran and several other carriers operate. The ads are on the belts that slowly circle as luggage comes up, ensuring everyone waiting for a bag also gets a pitch for the company's "Carving Board Meats."

Large signs nearby also tout Oscar Mayer products.

The combination creates a "domination effect," said Pam Horn, national sales manager for Clear Channel Airports, the airport's advertising contractor.

The new form of ads come as the advertising contract at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has been mired in controversy in the wake of a multi-million dollar verdict in a lawsuit against the airport over the process under which it was awarded. The airport is preparing to rebid the advertising contract.

Hartsfield-Jackson general manager Louis Miller said the airport will make $124,000 from the Oscar Mayer ads -- equivalent to 65 percent of what the campaign will gross for Clear Channel.

"It was certainly worth it to us and it certainly helps our advertising revenues  increase significantly," Miller said. He said advertising sales at the airport rose 13 percent from July through November 2010 compared with the same period of 2009.

Putting ads on the baggage claim carousel belts is a new idea for Hartsfield-Jackson, where Clear Channel briefly tested the concept prior to the Oscar Mayer campaign.

While Oscar Mayer typically targeted women through print ads, along with billboards and in-store ads, "we know that women are working, they're traveling... so the airport is really the perfect place to target" them, said Oscar Mayer brand manager Marjani Coffey.

The campaign may determine whether travelers will welcome ads on baggage claim belts or consider it too intrusive. Horn said her company works closely with the airport's concessions department to decide where advertising is appropriate.

Pam Thomas, a national account executive for Clear Channel Airports, said she expects other advertisers to be interested in the baggage claim belt ads.

"We're getting a lot of requests already," she said.

The airport plans to seek bids for a new advertising contract at the airport in the next  few months, though Miller said campaigns like the Oscar Mayer one will not influence the airport's decision. The airport also plans to seek bids for an advertising contract for outside areas such as in parking garages and SkyTrain areas.