One hundred million Americans have never flown, have never been inside an airplane, are not aware of the advantages and pleasures of flying. American Airlines has developed an exhibit, called the Astrosphere, to reach this audience where it is most accessible, at the shopping center.
Inside the Astrosphere a theater was designed to resemble the interior of an American Airlines 707 Astrojet. The seats, although set eight across as in airliners of the future, are duplicates of 707 seating. The visitors strap themselves into the seats, put on headsets, and watch a twelve-minute film about travel across America, including a pilot’s eye view of both the landing and take-off. Stewardesses assist visitors. and travel literature is provided in seat pockets located in front of the passengers. This on-ground pre-conditioning of prospective passengers cannot help but stimulate their desire for air travel. Conservative American estimates fore-cast two million actual visitors to the Astrosphere and ten million people who will have seen it.
The Astrosphere is the largest dual-walled, air-inflated unit ever built. It has aproximately 6000 square feet of usable space, over half of which is used for visitor traffic flow and exhibit areas. Carried in four forty-foot vans, it can be set up in three hours.
The interior view shows the 128-seat theater in the center of the Astrosphere.
The cutaway model shows the plan of the Astrosphere. In the area outside the theater are exhibits by American Express Company, Hertz Rent-a-Car, Holiday Inns of America, and Texaco. all showing the relationship of these companies to travel. Domestic travel is promoted in keeping with the Discover America program established by President Johnson. Flags surrounding the sphere are of the 50 states.
The American Airlines example of marketing at shopping centers to reach the consumer directly will inevitably be further developed by other companies. Shopping centers may soon become small world’s fairs as marketers continue to cut the distance, be it physical or conceptual, between their product and the consumer.
– “Point Of Purchase Design,” by Harvey Offenhartz (1968)