SPOTLIGHT ON: AMBIENT MEDIA - Will the latest ambient media be a viable advertising tool? How will advertisers react to a customer information system? By Alasdair Reid

By ALASDAIR REID, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 24 October 1997 12:00AM

It’s all too easy to poke fun at ambient media. You know - the stuff you find in golf holes, on toilet walls, on straps in tube carriages, petrol pump handles, the lids of takeaway food cartons. Someone somewhere is undoubtedly plotting the wholesale return of sandwichboard men.

It’s all too easy to poke fun at ambient media. You know - the

stuff you find in golf holes, on toilet walls, on straps in tube

carriages, petrol pump handles, the lids of takeaway food cartons.

Someone somewhere is undoubtedly plotting the wholesale return of

sandwichboard men.



Against this background of obscure endeavour, some new opportunities

seem positively mainstream. Like the Customer Information System, for

instance. Last week, the Katz International media sales house signed a

deal to represent CIS, which is billed as the UK’s ’first ever train

information system’. It will operate on the Heathrow Express, a service

designed to provide a 15-minute link between Paddington and the airport,

due to open next summer.



Carriages on the service will be fitted with large, flat-screen TV

monitors; programming will include news, weather, London events,

on-going travel information and, of course, advertising.



A good idea? The only vaguely comparable concepts in transport media are

poles apart - inflight video at the arguably sublime end and The

Original Passenger Picture Show at the ... well, at the the other end.

TOPPS installed TV screens in 2,000 buses in the Midlands, the

North-west, Wales, Yorkshire, the North-east and the Home Counties and

claimed it could bring a little cheer into the lives of bored

passengers.



The passengers argued otherwise and TOPPS closed earlier this year,

buried under a flood of complaints about intrusive noise.



Isn’t CIS just TOPPS with a guards’ van attached? Not at all, insists

David Goffin, the commercial director of Katz International. For a

start, this is a different audience. ’With respect to the users of buses

in Yorkshire, this will be a sexier demographic,’ he points out. ’Sixty

per cent will be businessmen. They spend a lot of time travelling and

are light consumers of traditional media. This will be an ideal

environment in which to reach them. The carriages will be fitted with

quality interiors and passengers will be relaxed.’



Will advertisers be interested? ’Five years ago, people didn’t think

much of the idea of ads on the back of tube tickets. Now it’s a

recognised medium,’ George Michaelides, the managing partner of

Michaelides & Bednash, says. ’When we did it for Mercury, we had to do

everything ourselves - even talking to the printers who print the ticket

reels. It’s legitimate to surround the customer with what is available

and what is appropriate. It’s ridiculous to marginalise anything.’



What about CIS in particular? As always, argues Michaelides, it will be

up to the media owner to get it right. And the quality of the travelling

experience will be as important as the programming. Rupert Slade, an

associate director of CIA Medianetwork, agrees. And he should know. He’s

been involved in some bizarre campaigns in the past including the Fat

Slags scratch and sniff insert (fish and chips scent, naturally) for

Viz.



’You have to judge these things on their merits,’ he argues. ’I’m

getting sick of people trying to persuade me to advertise in doctor’s

waiting rooms. That’s not a good environment, for obvious reasons.



’But too many media people are so numbers obsessed that they’re unable

to look at the advertiser’s needs as a whole. If only 2 per cent of your

market sees something, it may not be a disaster if it makes a

disproportionate impact.’



Will he consider CIS? ’It depends how they do it. If it’s used mainly as

an advertising vehicle touting duty free - a direct call to action -

then it’s going to be intrusive. It must be of some use to passengers,

it has to offer added value. But it will be worth looking at because the

people who go through Heathrow really are a desirable audience.’



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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