Out of doors and Public Spaces Advertising & Events by Joyce Schwarz
Out of Doors, Top of Mind
Joyce Schwarz www.jcombusinessdevelopment.com
How do you stuff an airplane into an elevator? Ask Captivate Networks Inc., the Westford,
Massachusetts national news network that delivers digital advertising and programming to a captive
audience of more than 1.9 million educated, affluent consumers in the elevators of premier office
towers across North America. The company's advertisers include most of the top airlines such as
American Airlines, British Airways, Delta, SAS and scores of other brands ranging from Amtrak to
When Captivate Network‟s President and General Manager Mike DiFranza founded his firm in 1997
after a flash of inspiration during an elevator ride, he probably never imagined that his company
would deliver 40 million impressions a month, be backed by international media powerhouse
Gannett and broadcast to more than 6,200 wireless digital screens located in premiere office towers
in 21 North American markets. Captivate‟s website brags that the firm “helps hundreds of leading
brands transform downtime into Captivate Time”. Surprisingly, they do this silently too -- the visual
dominates the screen.
No longer can mainstream media promise the recall, ad effectiveness and purchase intent that
brands need to deliver bottom line results. Increasingly interactive marketers are turning to these so
called “captive audience networks” proliferating in a brave new world of narrowcasting. Whether you
call it “dynamic visual messaging” or slang it “the Outernet,” digital wireless media networks are
increasingly popular for place-based media. In indoor and outdoor settings, digital media streams
dynamically to networked digital and electronic signage and LCD, Plasma and Flat Panel HD
screens coast to coast and around the world.
Audience fragmentation is not the only driver for these new media buys; advancing technology
enables brands to deliver advertising or branded entertainment in „day parts‟ (like radio and
television) or to complement and even displace traditional signage in stores, buildings, along
highways or in a myriad of other public spaces. What‟s making all of these options possible are
rapidly developing technologies such as wireless LANs and advanced wi-fi solutions that enable
networking, scheduling, content management and dynamic electronic displays from 15 inch square
elevator screens to 150 square foot video billboards to even more impressive 50 floor buildings
whose roofs and faces become streaming video canvases for brands on demand.
To really understand the impact of this out-of home advertising and media revolution, go to Times
Square in New York City. Stand at 45th and Broadway and you‟ll be spellbound by the next-
generation of visual merchandising. Some ad experts call the area the new “signature of America‟s
marketing and financial prowess." The billboards there -- many of them streaming video -- are now
among the most effective and most expensive in the nation.
State of the art streaming is an increasingly popular choice for brands that want to impress the 40
million annual individual visitors -- roughly equivalent to 14 percent of the U.S. population -- who
flock to Broadway each year. For example, the J.P. Morgan Chase sign at the base of the Reuters
building at 42nd Street and 7th Avenue features 10 times the resolution of the average TV set, at a
pricey investment said to be more than $10 million, (not including rental space).
And consider this: Super Bowl commercials command about $2.6 million each for 30 second spots
and reach 80 million people. One Times Square draws 211 million viewers when the New Year‟s
Eve ball drops, according to Brian Turner, the president of Sherwood Outdoor, which is the agent for
more than 40 percent of all signage on Times Square.
Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi and author of the new book “The Future On Screen
SISOMO: creating emotional connections in the market with sight sound and emotion, said in a
recent speech: “Welcome to the attraction economy -- where the winners will be those who get to
that emotional future first and fast.” He believes that companies must move from permission to
attraction. “With permission you‟ve got to ask the customer, with attraction they come to you.”
Roberts' book is getting some flack from bloggers who believe that he forgets about the power of
citizen‟s media and interactivity. But in some of the most popular out-of-home media, pedestrians
become active and essential participants in the campaign. Viewers became players and literally
drove the outcome using their cell phones as remote controls last year when New York-based R/GA
promoted Yahoo!‟s new automotive website with a billboard encouraging pedestrians to become
players in a video game broadcast on part of the 23 story tall Reuters sign.
At the Hershey‟s Times Square store, for the small fee of $4.95, consumers can stream their name
or personal message in lights, the flashing LED message circling the building for 10 minutes. On
Hershey's website, consumers can simulate the experience for free.
Across the pond in London, in Piccadilly Circus, a giant 99-foot neon colossus of a billboard lets
people respond to the weather and interact with it by looking up from the ground. Also in London,
one of the most popular promotional vehicles for the London 2012 Olympics campaign was a giant
screen in Trafalgar Square. To most Londoners, the screen was just another billboard, but to tourists
it was a giant promo visible from taxis and public transport blocks away.
Peter Irwin, the president and CEO of Toronto, Canada‟s Outdoor Broadcast Network (OBN),
believes that humongous, interactive video screens are both the logical evolution of cave drawings
and state of the art 21st Century communications mediums. His firm‟s high-resolution video „media
tower‟ at Toronto‟s Eaton Centre measures 7,200 square feet, features four separate screens and
40 scrolling panels, and is viewed by 700,000 people per week. According to Irwin, his tower‟s
advanced technology makes it the first true synchronized multimedia venue in the world -- syncing
on-screen content with real-time events. An example is a campaign for Toronto radio station Q107
where the video screens reference whichever song is playing on the radio at any given moment.
Last year when the temperature dipped really low in Toronto, a streaming image of a bowl of
Campbell‟s soup steamed up the screens.
Interactivity on big screens is not only the Holy Grail but also the hot button for interactive campaigns,
which demand both call to action and measurable metrics. Nokia used the Eaton Centre media
tower to nab prospects and film them with their newest mobile cam phone and then project their
images above their heads under the animated slogan “Picture Yourself here.”