CAMPAIGN REPORT ON OUTDOOR & AMBIENT: Dotcoms buy sites - It is an unlikely love affair but the oldest medium in the world has become the favourite to advertise the newest. Jane Austin reports on why posters and loo sites work for the dotcoms

Spending by e-commerce companies on outdoor advertising is set to rise more than 400 per cent this year to reach pounds 84 million, according to a new report by the poster specialist Poster Publicity. This follows an increase last year of 1,600 per cent to pounds 16 million.

Spending by e-commerce companies on outdoor advertising is set to

rise more than 400 per cent this year to reach pounds 84 million,

according to a new report by the poster specialist Poster Publicity.

This follows an increase last year of 1,600 per cent to pounds 16


That points to an interesting paradox, that the world’s oldest medium is

the favourite of the globe’s newest media. For these powerful new

clients, TV has often proved to be too expensive and, with the

fragmentation of the medium, it is sometimes not perceived as being as

potent as outdoor. While outdoor allows for media standout, e-commerce

clients argue that their brand could easily get lost in a series of

commercial breaks. The challenge is to stand out from the crowd

immediately, which goes hand in hand with the e-com clients’ simple

message to go and visit the website. ’It’s a much simpler proposition

than trying to get over myriad product benefits,’ Annette Smart, the

managing director of Business Intelligence, says.

Further, the demographic of the UK internet user has a significant

influence on the use of outdoor. Poster Publicity’s report states: ’The

majority of users are younger than the national average (the average age

of internet users is 35). Forty per cent of web users have a degree

(against the national average of 12 per cent). Seventy-nine per cent of

web users are ABC1 and 24 per cent live in London.’

Steve Wilson, the managing director of Blade, says: ’Outdoor is firmly

placed in the real world which makes the demographic feel more

comfortable as they spend a lot of time in the virtual world. People

look out for posters in dead time, such as when they are driving,

commuting, going to leisure activities or visiting friends, and it is a

welcome interruption. Also this group does not stay in and watch TV -

they’re out and about all the time.’

Yvonne O’Brien, the head of marketing at the More Group, adds: ’Outdoor

is the ultimate banner ad. These sites perform a role in the often

hectic daily lives of young adults and their messages imply ’here’ and

’now’ - almost demanding swift action to experience the brand being


Added to the role of the poster site is that of ambient media, although

O’Brien is sceptical as to whether it is capable of building a brand as

successfully as posters. ’Ambient is a useful addition to the dotcom

mix,’ she explains. ’But it isn’t capable of brand building as it is

never going to reach the market in the same volume as posters.’

Philip Vecht, the chief executive of Admedia, is achieving exceptional

results for e-commerce clients via a combination of both ambient and


The national poster contractor owns and operates 10,000 washroom poster

panels in 180 of the nation’s busiest shopping centres plus those in

every motorway service area in the UK.

’We have ambient ads in the washrooms of 660 motorway services as well

as illuminated six-sheet sites across the locations. The six-sheets have

proved to be able to get to a mass internet audience and this initial

impact is followed up by the A3 ads in washrooms. More than 400 million

people visit a motorway service each year and 95 per cent of those

people go to the loo,’ Vecht says.

The results for a variety of direct response campaigns have been

impressive, he adds. ’ONET, an internet service provider, received more

than 1,000 calls a day, 23,000 in total. As there is nothing else to

look at in the washroom, people read the text on the posters and then

often act on the message by either looking up a website or buying the

product in a shop within the service stop. Haymarket Publishing, for

example, ran an Admedia washroom campaign for the net magazine at

motorway services and the title sold out at some of the sites within two

weeks of the posters going up.’

Outdoor is winning in the popularity stakes over other media. It is yet

to hike up its rates to capitalise on the e-coms clients’ financial

success, unlike some print media. And radio doesn’t appear to have the

reach in terms of appealing to the target market, as well as being more

difficult to track. Outdoor provides lengthy exposure to the message

and, through geodemographic mapping, can enable campaigns to be targeted

to tightly defined areas, so eliminating wastage.

So it would appear that outdoor and the dotcoms are all loved up. Only

two thorny issues have to be addressed to ensure that the relationship

is long term. First, the creative standard of e-commerce posters is a

concern. Carole Kerman, the managing director of Outdoor Connection,

says: ’The creative could be a lot better. But this is because agencies

don’t have a creative history for these clients.

Outdoor is fantastic for a launch but the creative has to work with the

medium to take the brand through.’

The second issue is the lifespan of the clients themselves. ’There is

significant increased traffic on the sites from e-coms clients,’ Kerman

adds. ’But beneath this there is a lot of venture capital aiding the


The future of how these clients use outdoor has more to do with whether

these clients stay around for the long term.’

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