So good you don’t notice it

Ambient media has evolved from a fringe industry to one with a turnover of £100m in 2001, and while other media lose revenue, it continues to grow

Evolved from fringe media six years ago, the ambient sector has come a long way. Research by Concord shows strong revenue growth for ambient media, from &£17.4m in 1996 to &£100m in 2001.

The research says that the industry has been experiencing impressive growth and now has a range of formats – giant banners, golf holes, bus tickets and plasma screens at airports, police stations, benches and pubs – for clients to choose from.

But despite an increase in revenue, the general media decline has not been escaped by ambient. The rate of yearly growth reflects this, down from 36 per cent in 2000 to 12 per cent in 2001. However, with its creative spark, constant innovation, affordability, and capacity to reach niche markets, ambient seems set to continue its upward trend. Concord predicts revenues will rise by a further 12 per cent in 2002, reaching &£113.3m.

According to the research, ambient media’s ability to accurately target by age, gender, mode and demographic gives the sector a distinct advantage over other media channels. The ambient poster format is a good example of this, consistently out-performing all other formats. Using washroom posters, for instance, advertisers can target male or female markets, as well as social groups and age ranges. With 75 per cent of purchasing decisions being made in supermarkets, Concord says that it is no surprise that trolley ads have also proven highly effective.

Research on Nike’s Book of Lies campaign indicates why the poster format has proven so popular. Nike wanted to maintain a strong image as a brand for serious athletes and needed to target a young, upmarket demographic. A solus poster and sticker campaign was used in gyms and private health clubs for which recall was at 82 per cent, with 42 per cent claiming they were likely to buy a Nike product in the future.

The poster format, which includes washroom posters, giant banners and trolley ads, accounted for more than half of ambient media’s revenue in 2001, totalling &£53m. With increased accountability and additional stock, giant banners alone attracted 30 per cent year on year. Concord predicts that revenue for the poster format will increase by a further 11 per cent in 2002 to &£58.6m.

Modal targeting – reaching consumers on the move – has also featured highly in ambient channel planning. Transport formats dominated, taking 30 per cent of revenue. In 2001, ambient media in underground and mainline trains and stations, buses and airports attracted &£30m. This 23 per cent year-on-year growth maintained transport’s top position for the third year running.

Targeting consumers at their destination is another growth area. This includes locations such as pubs, bars, cinemas and gyms. Revenue from the leisure sector increased by ten per cent in 2001 to &£23.1m. With the growing popularity of keeping fit, as well as watching major sports events – such as the World Cup – in clubs and pubs becoming increasingly popular, the leisure sector is predicted to rise by a further ten per cent in 2002, generating revenue of &£25.2m.

The point-of-purchase sector, in comparison, had a flat and fairly static 2001, but is forecast to enjoy an 18 per cent increase in revenue during 2002.

One format that is set to come into its own is digital ambient media. Continued innovation such as LED screens, video and plasma monitors gave the sector a 33 per cent boost in 2001, making it the fastest-growing, out-of-home media sector. Concord expects digital revenue to increase to &£12.2m this year.

Not all formats have had a successful year. Sponsorship, aerial and distributive formats all suffered from the general media malaise. With an increased acceptance of measured consumer channels, unmeasured media opportunities such as media stunts, which are often justified more in column inches, are having to fight harder for their place on the media schedule. Concord believes, however, that there will always be room for both.

Advertisers across the board have recognised the importance and effectiveness of ambient media. Finance, entertainment and the media, retail, business and industrial, food and drinks advertisers all spent similar amounts, reflecting the broad range of media categories using ambient. Packaged goods clients feature highly on the list of top advertisers, the top three being Nestlé, Masterfoods and Unilever. Both Nestlé and Masterfoods each spent &£2m on ambient media in 2001.

The study concludes that ambient offers advertisers an effective platform from which to reach the consumer at an opportune time, place or frame of mind. The fact that the the ambient media industry has continued to expand in a year when total UK advertising growth fell for the first time in nine years, is indicative that it has more than just a foothold in modern channel planning.

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