Is it the ads or the product?
An advertising agency is a lot like a venture capital firm, a different cost structure, but still focused on finding winners. I think that’s part of the success of the agency I used to work at, the ability to choose clients who are growing and selling. As much as good advertising makes a product look good, a good product makes advertising look good (and profitable).
BAA USA, a client from my last job, is the branch of the British Airport Authority that designs and manages retail in airports such as Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Boston. They focus on providing, at worst, “regular mall pricing” in airports and giving you the same sort of selection you get at the mall as well.
Paying $3.05 for a bag of M&M’s, $2.9 for a bottle of water, and $6.25 for a glass of wine tells me that the concessionaire at the Oakland (OAK) airport has a different, and probably inferior, idea about how to run airport concessions. The idiots in charge of this circus don’t even have an Apple outlet in the whole complex, despite being a few miles from Cupertino and being a portal to a city (SF) that plasters iPod ads all over, particularly on freeways leading to the Oakland Airport.
It’s not even greed, just stupidity that makes the Oakland airport host crappy food, generic retail, and an experience worth forgetting. You can only gouge people so long before they start packing their own M&Ms and cutting the concessionaire out completely.