Media: Behind the Hype - Avenue looks to make in-roads on the high street

Does the new Adbox pose a genuine threat to the other players, Alasdair Reid asks.

When someone claims to have re-invented the outdoor medium, you will almost certainly have heard it all before. In this case, it's the Adbox, which has just been launched within the M25 by an Irish company called Avenue Media and it seems to have hit the ground running, managing to install 400 sites without anyone really noticing.

Like the bus-shelter advertising business, Adbox combines utility with visibility - the units are secure drop-boxes installed outside newsagents, which double as six-sheet poster sites. It's a quid pro quo - the newsagent gets a safe place for the distributor to leave the bundles of newsprint early in the morning and Adbox, in return for its largesse in installing the box, gets advertising inventory close to a coveted retail point of sale.

Adbox's network takes in Spar, Centra and Mace stores on what it claims are prime high-street locations. It's a media opportunity that may be of interest to soft drinks and confectionery brands - advertisers of the calibre of Nestle, Coca-Cola and Masterfoods.

The company hopes to grow its inventory to a total of 2,000 sites within the next 12 months and is also looking to expand into the garage forecourt business, having signed a deal with Texaco and Maxoil. "We believe we have added a new dimension to outdoor media and have created a new breed of high-street six-sheets," according to the Avenue Media corporate manifesto.

So, just what kind of score should this merit on the Campaign hype detector?

Alex Thomson, the managing director of the outdoor media specialist Portland Outdoor, is minded to be relatively generous. He states: "Any opportunity offering proximity to confectioners, tobacconists and newsagents is of interest, especially for certain types of products. So, in terms of there being a new product out there, the view has to be positive."

The downside, he says, is that the sites are not always on high-traffic roads and they are not always highly visible to motorists because they are set back from the road.

Glen Wilson, the client services director at Posterscope, agrees with much of that. He points out that the six-sheet retail environment market is very competitive already. "It's well established with lots of supply and lots of quality," he states. "To succeed you have to deliver a unique audience at an attractive cost. There's quite a bit of clutter in the immediate environment of the sorts of shops we're talking about. So I think they will have to do something quite different, for instance, offering creative novelties such as being able to wrap the boxes, which I know they're doing."

And does Primesight, a media owner specialising in retail-orientated six-sheets, feel threatened? Naren Patel, the company's managing director, welcomes this development. "Competition always helps the market," he explains.

"I wish them luck. But, no, we wouldn't see this as a threat. We have 3,000 six-sheet panels outside CTNs and 3,000 by petrol station forecourts. But anything that helps grow the market is good for us."

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