Billboards and Beyond: Transport - Digital rail

New technology poses an array of fresh creative challenges for advertisers and their agencies.

One strand of thinking in the out-of-home sector has always been obsessed with the gigantic - increasingly so over the past few years.

In static outdoor media, we've witnessed the emergence of all sorts of super-sizes, special-builds, banners and building wraps.

But an even longer-running outdoor fantasy has been the notion of monumental outdoor screens - in fact, there have been many theorists who have claimed that this is where the truly spectacular growth opportunities will eventually be found.

Of course, in the building-high animated lightshows of the likes of Times Square and Piccadilly Circus, something of the reality has been with us for decades. So far, though, we've witnessed nothing even touching the imaginative landscapes of science fiction dystopias seen in films such as Blade Runner, with their all-pervasive backdrops of skyscraper TV - though it's true we're seeing the emergence of huge outdoor screens in Japan, Australia and other Pacific Rim countries.

In the UK, however, the only place we've seen anything close is in the cathedral-like concourses of our mainline railway stations - courtesy of Maiden's Transvision screens.

The first was launched at Victoria in January 2001, with the promise of more to follow. There are now ten in London mainline stations and a further four - Birmingham New Street, Leeds, Manchester Piccadilly and Edinburgh Waverley - in the provinces. There are two sizes of screen within the network: smaller stations tend to feature 3.3 metre by 1.9 metre units; and where larger units are appropriate, the dimensions are 5.3 by 2.6.

Specially tailored commercials (there's no sound) are sold into a rotating editorial package - the total "wheel" of ads plus editorial lasts eight minutes, so, given the fact that typical dwell time at mainline stations is 16 minutes, the audience, on average, gets to see the cycle twice.

Editorial content of subtitled news segments is supplied by BBC News 24 and advertisers can update their message on a regular basis or use different executions for different day-parts. They can also offer downloads of video files, sound files or PDFs using Bluetooth technology.

Liverpool Street, which is London's busiest station, caters for more than 123 million visitors a year - 75 per cent are in the ABC1 demographic, 23 per cent are 25- to 34-year-olds, 37 per cent are commuters and 31 per cent leisure travellers. In other words, there's an audience there for more advertisers.

As with other out-of-home screen media (the media owners have started shying away from talking about "out-of-home TV" because TV ads aren't always appropriate, no matter how cleverly re-purposed), it has taken a while for creative agencies to get their heads around this new opportunity.

Last year, Maiden invited students at the Slade School of Art to submit 30-second animated films exploring the possibilities of the format while weaving in themes of travel and trains. Their work was judged by a panel including the Mother creative director and Slade graduate, Carlos Bayala, and the best work ran on the Transvision network.

FACT FILE

MAJOR PLAYER: Titan

WHAT'S NEW: Bluetooth-enabled downloads

CASE STUDY - Land Rover

Client: Land Rover
Media owner: Titan Outdoor
Brief: Increase mass awareness of the Land Rover Discovery 3; give the
vehicle a "launch style" treatment; promote technological stories of
substance
Budget: n/s

Target market: ABC1 adults, aged 25 to 54 years old.

Sector inventory used: Transvision. Two weeks across all screens, featuring a 30-second ad every loop; sponsorship of Transvision's daily snow reports.

Wider outdoor inventory: City banners, backlight and snow-topped 96-sheets, skylight and roadside 48-sheets, Underground and AdRail 48-sheets.

Other media: TV, DiTV, national press supplements, online and radio.

Client testimonial: Naveen Dayal, national advertising manager, Land Rover UK: "The use of Transvision reflected the modern qualities of the Land Rover Discovery 3 and sponsoring the snow reports enabled us to communicate the message via an innovative channel."

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