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B.Sc Multimedia Technology & Design
Lecture 3 (This may take two weeks to get through.)
Based on Blythe, J. Marketing Communications 2000 Harlow: Prentice Hall particularly pp
85-98 and pp 3-7
Outdoor advertising
Outdoor advertising covers a wide range of media types. These include billboards, posters,
street advertising on e.g. street furniture and bus shelters, fly posting for gigs ('bill stickers')
and on moving vehicles, inside-transport advertising in e.g. tube trains and buses through to
the more bizarre stunts and events e.g. hot-air balloons.
Billboards are cheap but passive. They are particularly useful to support other more
mainstream advertising and teaser campaigns. However the audience for outside advertising
is difficult to measure. Also the word count must be low since people may be driving or
walking by with no intention of stopping. To counter this inside transportation adverts are
actually read. Without advertising a tube station may seem very boring (nothing but crowds)
and then inside the train it is the same (indeed nothing but armpits in the rush hour).
Ambient advertising makes the 'medium become the message' (McLuhan).
Billboards (i.e. posters on hoardings)
From Toulouse-Lautrec to today
Posters have been with us for thousands of years. The boards for public houses have been
part of our culture for hundreds of years. Pictorial images of the "Kings Head'' and the "Red
Bull" have been with us for years. [Pub signs/posters for the recent rash of brash names (e.g.
Rat & Parrot) are not included here!]
As the Industrial Revolution got going in Europe perhaps the most famous exponent of poster
production was the graphic artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). He was born in
Provence into an aristocratic family dynastically 'devoted' to intermarriage. His grandmothers
were sisters and his father's sister married his mother's brother. Through such inter-breeding
Henri inherited a rare disease, pyknodysostosis, which leads to dwarfism. It occurs in twenty
per cent of people whose parents come from the same family. So, despite his long limbs (i.e.
arms and legs) not growing in adolescence, this four- feet-something 'adult' turned to art and
the good life in the Parisian "Belle Epoch". A broken thigh in 1878 (aged 14) resulted in a
break that did not heal properly because of pyknodysostosis and thereafter Henri had to walk
with a stick.
But there is a sense in which Henri had a break of another kind - technology. The invention of
colour lithography greatly increased the potential for reproducing complex four colour images
on paper, the application of steam power to the printing press made production costs for prints
cheaper and finally the better methods of transportation afforded by the railways meant
printed images could be easily distributed around Paris and its environs. The picture image
was essential to break the monotony of endless pages of tedious print.
In fin de siècle Paris many classes were pushed together in the new Hausmann-ised (?) Paris.
For the first time for working people leisure emerged as an option. People wanted places to go
to in the evenings and at weekend. So the new department stores catered for goods- and the
music hall catered for their rather base entertainment needs.
Notable entertainment venues were the Moulin de la Galette, the Moulin Rouge and the Chat
Noir. These music halls were all located in the Montmartre district at the back of the Sacre
Coeur in north Paris.
Henri Toulouse-Lautrec publicised the performances at music halls like the Moulin Rouge by
creating memorable colour posters which were put up around Paris. Below is an example.
<< picture p101>>
It publicises a star , known as La Gouloue (meaning glutton in English) at the Moulin Rouge.
Henri's output turned Paris into 'the art gallery of the streets' (Denvir, 1991). In a real sense
these lithographs were the new media of his age. They were truly the forerunner of the large
billboard poster with which we are familiar today.
Brian Morris
B.Sc Multimedia Technology & Design
Current distribution companies like (a)Mills and Allen and (b)More O'Farral (spelling?) number
120, but just six of the 120 have 82% of the UK's billboard business {see Harrison, D. (1993),
ADMAP, (April)}.
[SOL Qn. Track down this reference and identify the
top six billboard companies. Ring them and get copies
of their rates.]
Most vacant sites have billboards in front of them. Billboards are on the side of buildings and
main roads. Research into the effectiveness of Billboards is carried out by a body called
Outside Site Classification and Audience Research or OSCAR for short. Since there is an
interest in the number of people passing a poster as well as the demographics of an area the
geodemographic classification system ACORN (A classification of residential
neighbourhoods) is used to assess and quantify the value of sites for advertisers.
Billboards have the following advantages:
Low cost
A billboard is cheap to rent and the posters are cheap to design
and print. This compares well with TV advertisements and other
Can be localised for
Rather than broadcast to the nation, a group of sites can be
used within a desired area to promote e.g. the opening of a new
supermarket with crèche
Can be used seasonally
for short periods
As seasons change [e.g. autumn sales, Christmas shopping and
Summer breaks ] so may the uses of posters.
Can be easily changed to
suit circumstances
Posters can be changed readily for short periods, to support an
existing campaign on TV or in the Press. A good example of this
is to respond to events almost daily during an election campaign.
A good example of the use of billboards is the teaser campaign. In this an obscure level of
awareness is raised but a punchline is not given until later. Example: Elf Aquitaine, the French
petroleum company, ran a series of billboard adverts which said 'Now for Britain itself ...'. This
raised a certain level of intrigue due to its meaning being obscure. Much later the explanation
or denouement came with 'Now, for Britain it's Elf'. The initial interest is satisfied by this pun on
itself and it's Elf. The feeling is that this causes the message to stick in the customer's mind.
Often billboard campaigns can be news in themselves. The speed with which they may
change coupled with the light regulatory framework in which they operate means they may
have a tremendous shock impact. This is often exploited in PR campaigns. An example is the
Europe wide billboard campaign run by the "United colours of Benetton" campaign.
Since two thirds of decisions are made just prior to purchase, billboards serve as a useful last
reminder just before purchase.
Whilst they have a strong role in supporting a campaign a key drawback is that billboard
advertising can be rarely used in its own right.
Limited capacity
The copy must be very brief and the message conveyed in just a
few words. This places a premium on good imagery.
Difficult to evaluate
Audience figures are hard to measure because the audience
may be walking, driving or riding by. Traffic counts may give a
clue as to the maximum level of interest.
Billboards are easily defaced and damaged.
Brian Morris
B.Sc Multimedia Technology & Design
A noisy location may destroy the desired mood for the
communication of a message. A poster which suggests sweet
murmuring on a mobile may be lost in the generalised
work-a-day attitude people create as they go about their
In some areas there is strong objection to the proliferation of
posters on the grounds that they spoil the countryside and ruin
views of interest [e.g. no billboards outside the Houses of
Parliament]. In many countries there is often strict legislation
controlling the design, location and number of billboards
Poster size is measured in sheets which themselves are equal to a double crown bill (30
inches by 20 inches). Thus a 48-sheet billboard may measure ten feet by twenty feet in size.
In the past twenty years ultravision systems have become popular. These introduce a sense
of movement into a billboard and enable three different posters to be displayed in a minute.
Rotating slats mean a poster A may be displayed for the first twenty seconds, then poster B to
be displayed for the middle twenty seconds and, finally, poster C is displayed for the final
twenty seconds. In this way motorists weighting for lights to change may see three posters in
one minute at a sight where billboards are strictly controlled in number. Furthermore these
sites use light to make the poster more effective. A billboard visible for 24 hours a day is more
effective than one visible during the hours of good daylight.
Ultravision systems are used in peripheral advertising at televised events e.g. at football
matches just beyond the touchline. This is widely used in Italy and Spain rather than England.
Transport advertising
Outside transport
Outside transport advertising is essentially posters on the sides of buses and taxis.
Advertising is not usually shown on trains since they tend to move too fast for posters on their
side to be read.
The idea of livery is an interesting one here. Sometimes a whole taxi is painted in the colours
of the desired marketing message. There are taxis in the livery of the Financial Times and Aer
Lingus. The same applies to the backs of buses. [Most lorries and vans simply advertise their
owners (e.g. Harrods, Bishops Move) and are not contenders for livery advertising.] These
are extremely eye-catching ways of communicating a marketing message.
Adverts low on the back of buses are particularly useful for targeting car drivers
Inside transport
Posters inside buses and trains have marketing rules of their own .They can have substantial
amounts of copy, since travellers often have nothing to do except read the copy. It also gives
travellers something to look at rather than each other. On crowded trains the same advert may
be read many times over.
Advertising within stations - particularly tube stations - gives commuters, a target group, good
opportunities to read its posters. They are large and stuck directly opposite the platform. In the
two minutes between trains commuters, facing the posters, may read many hundreds of
words of copy.
The design of outdoor advertising
The rule here is the minimum of copy and the maximum of imagery. There are only a few
seconds to get the message from billboards, rather more time to get the message from bus
shelters of the Adshel type.
Brian Morris
B.Sc Multimedia Technology & Design
Icons, symbols and indices play a strong part in establishing the advert in the viewers
perception. An icon is a sign that looks like the object, or represents it visually, in a way that
most people would relate to (e.g. a picture of Princess Diana would represent a beautiful
caring person rejected by her husband yet loved by her people. Many strong but unhappy
women might relate to this image of an icon. ). An index is a sign that relates to the object by a
casual connection (e.g. a tanned woman in a swimming costume on a sunny golden beach
would suggest naturally the idea of holidays abroad). A symbol is an artificial sign which has
been created for the purpose of providing meaning (e.g. intertwined arrows to denote
recyclable products).
[Sol qn: Collect together instances of (a) icons, (b)
indices and (c) symbols - six of each. Accompany each
with reasons why you selected these eighteen
In association with this are studies in semiotics, syntactics and semantics. (From Human
Communication module.)
Many billboards use the full range of signs to get attention. A celebrity look-a-like can add an
iconic presence to a poster or an event. Getting a Marilyn Monroe look-a-like to appear on a
poster creates interest through recognition. Once attention has been raised the message is
conveyed: e.g. 'Breezy Brighton for the long weekend'.
An index of children holding hands with an adult figure nearby is an index for family
advertising. A message might be themed around breakfast e.g. "All Bran keeps them fit
healthy and regular!"
A symbol is used by companies for instant recognition. An example is the Nike swoosh. This
has migrated to sport and leisure clothing. It is often sufficient in its own right since recognition
has been learned: it is similar to a tick but different. The dissonance sets up a need for
clarification. The customer learns this difference: a tick means right, a swoosh means Nike. (If
you are not careful you will find yourself thinking 'It is right to wear Nike and Nike is right!).
Nike ran a poster campaign in the early nineties in which icons and symbols were linked. This
was potentially powerful.
But only potentially! - for things can go wrong. Eric Cantona was a male icon of individuality
and success. Posters showed our Eric in a Manchester United shirt and the swoosh to the
side with a few words (What were the words?). So far so good. But in a football match at
Selhurst Park, Eric Cantona went over the top by kicking a spectator in spectacular fashion
on live television. The association between male icon and swoosh became flawed overnight.
Billboards are often used for teaser campaigns. The launch of Orange, the mobile telephone
company, in the early 1990s was a classic. First there were large hoardings in black with an
orange square towards the bottom left. Then in phase two there were added the words "The
future is bright". Then in phase three this was completed "The future is bright, the future is
Orange." Once the awareness had been established - and only then - was the product
identified. (Technically this is called the denouement.) The growth of Orange has been
exceptional gaining 20-25% of market share from a standing start in the UK in less than seven
years. The use of simple intriguing images that slowly unfold both teases the imagination and
establishes recognition. Hence the name 'teaser campaign'.
Airships, skywriting, banner-towing and balloons.
An airship attracts attention because it can be easily seen and is large enough to carry copy
(an airship is much larger than an aircraft). Its relatively stately speed means its message can
be read reasonably easily. A brand name advertised here would be seen by most people it
passes over in reasonably fine weather.
Hot air balloons are a variation to the airship. (Think air balloon, think Richard Branson, think
Virgin.). Their use is extremely affected by the weather. If there is too little wind or too much
wind they cannot fly. This means they are extremely seasonal. Consequently they easily cross
the boundary from Advertising to News Event.
Brian Morris
B.Sc Multimedia Technology & Design
Because the hot air balloon is considered rare (planes are commonplace), likely to get into
trouble (inexperienced crew, bad weather, political problems) it is considered newsworthy. The
headline 'Richard Branson might die' is newsworthy. The resulting reportage of a Branson
balloon attept is worth more than an advertising account can buy. Airships also benefit
through having no industry guidelines (unlike billboards). Hence the 'any thing goes' character
of many of Richard Branson's air balloon adventures as he pushes forward into virgin territory
(that brand name again!).
Banner towing and sky-writing are two further examples of airborne advertising. These are
used mainly at sea sides or large events where crowds gather. They are a variation on airship
Ambient advertising
Ambient advertising works best when it is close to the point of sale or close to the location of
the problem. The most obvious example is the Department Store sale. An environment of
near price collapse is created and this attracts customers. They mill around looking for
bargains. A certain edge is given to the experience by reducing prices in sudden stages. (The
Bentall’s Blue Cross sale comes to mind.) This auction-like atmosphere transforms a sedate
Department store into something akin to a market or ill-disciplined auction house.
However, there is a possible confusion here. A department store sale could be called a
‘promotional event’. We need to refocus. Imagine you have bought a cup of tea at an in-store
restuarant. You are feeling peckish but do not want to buy a sandwich for £2.00 extra. At the
till you see a prominently displayed notice. It says “Feeling peckish? Don’t have just a drink have our Tea Time Special of pot of tea, slice of toast and Danish pastry - only £1.99 [subject
to availability]”. Clearly a pot of tea, a slice of toast and a Danish pastry seems at the point of
purchase to be more attractive than a cup of tea on its own and is better value than one cup
of tea and one sandwich. This increases the chances that a customer will switch the purchase
from the single cup of tea, increase revenue and get rid of the Danish Pastries not sold in the
Examples of ambient advertising are as follows:
Est’ 1998
value -£m
Ambient media vehicles
Shopping centres, car parks,
petrol stations, supermarkets,
post offices, fast-food outlets
Trolleys, tickets, takeaway lids,
postacrd racks, floor
advertising, eggs, carrier bags.
Cinemas, sports stadia, pubs,
music venues.
Postcard racks, toilet walls,
beer mats.
The Underground, trains and
buses(with vehicles stations
and shelters, bus stops, petrol
and service stations, airports.
Liveried trains buses and taxis,
petrol pump nozzles, stair riser
adverts, car park barriers, car
par display & travel tickets
Aerial and mobile media
Balloons & skywriting.
Schools, colleges, universities
& libraries
Posters, video screens,
bookmarks, payroll, bins.
Playgrounds, nurseries,
emergency services, group
GP practices
Sponsorship opportunities
Company & council offices.
Payroll advertising
Advantages of ambient advertising.
Ambient advertising offers the following advantages:
Brian Morris
B.Sc Multimedia Technology & Design
Used close to the point of purchase, ambient campaigns are cheaper to produce than
sales promotions, and compared to price reductions give a point-of-purchase
incentive with no negative profit-reduction effects.
Well executed ambient campaigns enhance brand image.
Creative campaigns often obtain press coverage, some of them being designed with
this in mind.
Ambient campaigns are very effective for activating needs.
A most simple and effective ambient campaign can be seen on the steps going south and up
from Kings Cross Tube to street level. On every rise it says ‘MacDonalds is at the top of these
stairs’ with the usual MacDonalds logo and colours. The traveller is forewarned (repeatedly!)
and if there is a need for a quick drink and a bite to eat these advertisments on the stairisers
certainly activate the desire to enter MacDonalds for a quick bite.
Ambient advertising classifications.
Campaigns may be long term strategic or short term tactical, while the closeness to the point
of sale may be high or low. This gives a two by two classification of ambient media.
Objectives of
Proximity to the point of sale
Designed to create a longterm effect.
Designed to create an
immediate response.
Toilet walls. (anti-drink drive
Stunt ambient media to
generate publicity; art
installations. (Jckie Charlton
statue at Cork airport makes
the place memorable stimulates fly fishing tourism.)
Petrol pump nozzles,
supermarket till rolls, stair
risers, trolleys. Free email
Ticket advertising, gift
Some of these classifications are not easy to assess. The attachment of a signature to all
email messages sent from say YAHOO (see below) creates a tactical ambient advertising
environment. If enough of these are collected the situation may become strategic.
Bye for now,
Ben D
Brian Morris
B.Sc Multimedia Technology & Design
Get your free address at
While esentially tactical and very close to the point of ‘sale’, it does create the possibility,
through collecting and maintaining, enough free subscribers, of a strategically important
mailing list. The owner of a global mailing list numbering tens of millions may in the future
become a resource which will generate money for marketers who are adapting their
campaigns to an IT literate population.
Sol Qn: Do you think Universities should be creating
super email facilities for their students and naimtain
them after graduation? For in that way news can be
distributed quickly to Alumnae, surveys may be made by
the University of ex-student opinion and there may be
huge receipts if judicious and careful choice is made
of offers by market research companies to carry out
marketing research.
Brian Morris