For at least a year, Barracuda Networks has been running large ads in Vancouver’s airport. I think I’ve seen their ads in other airports, but can’t confirm that (anybody?). I snapped a bad photo of one of several large display ads in the baggage collection area:
You can see better versions of their ads on their website.
I’m always puzzled when I see these ads. Barracuda makes humming boxes that companies install in their networks to protect against email spam, viruses, phishing and so forth. This one costs about CAN $650:
The Barracuda Spam Firewall is compatible with all email servers and can fit into nearly any corporate or small business environment. It is used by small organizations with as few as 10 employees and large organizations with as many as 200,000 employees. A single Barracuda Spam Firewall handles up to 100,000 active email users. Multiple units can be clustered together for even greater capacity and high availability.
According to YVR, about 4.1 million international passengers passed through their gates in 2007. What tiny fraction of those passengers are potential buyers of Barracuda’s products?
The math gets murky, but according to BC Stats, there are about 81,000 technology workers in BC. Of course, not all of those are potential Barracuda customers. Plenty of those have no interest in the IT concerns of their companies. Others work for companies that have fewer than 10 employees. Let’s be generous and imagine that one third of these tech workers might possibly be or know somebody who could become a Barracuda customer.
That works out to 6 out of 1000 British Columbians who might be the target market for these ads. That fraction is certainly lower for foreign visitors. So–best case scenario–that ad might be relevant to one out of every 200 passengers. In truth, I suspect the number is closer to one in 1000.
And yet this is a sadly commonplace scenario. Most offline ads are incredibly dumb–they’re irrelevant to 99.9% of people who see them. Barracuda runs these ads as an act of faith. That one or two out of the madding crowd of visitors grabbing their bags might take an interest, and start on the long, treacherous path towards an IT purchase. And do the folks at Barracuda Networks have an accurate sense of the return on investment of these airport ads? What do you think?
On a vaguely related note, I saw an enormous barracuda in shallow water in Panama a couple of weeks ago. It was at least three feet long, and just cruising gently by in about three feet of water.