Business sees opportunity too good to pass by

Business-to-business advertisers are venturing into digital outdoor, attracted by the prime locations and ability to offer detailed audience metrics. Matthew Valentine explores the trend.


Familiar as we all are with outdoor posters advertising consumer items from beer to bras to cars, there is a distinct shift towards business-to-business marketers using the medium, specifically digital out of home (OOH), attracted by its creative potential and measurability.

Digital OOH’s prime locations in city centres, airports, train and London Underground stations and office foyers can boast a high concentration of professional workers among their audience. As well as commuting to and from work, these people are often travelling on business, thinking about business issues and, increasingly, there are figures available to tell advertisers who they are and what they want. Measurement of digital outdoor’s reach and effectiveness is also increasing, growing its appeal to B2B advertisers.

Hitachi Europe head of public affairs Hans Daems says: “We have started using digital OOH for the first time this year. Before, we were trying to use TV spots on business channels and we have voluntarily stepped away from this because Hitachi as a brand is changing.

“We have become a mainly B2B brand – our main businesses are rail, power, IT and construction machinery – and we wanted to look at where our audience is and when the most efficient time is to deliver our messages to them.” As a result of its review, the brand has moved away from TV spots on Sky News and onto digital outdoor sites in busy train stations.

Better knowledge about audiences and their reaction, and interaction, with digital outdoor was partly responsible for Hitachi’s shift in marketing strategy (see case study, right) and other brands tell a similar story.

IBM is increasing its use of digital posters to reach a business audience, and access to additional research helped bolster its decision to move in that direction.

Seeing better days: Advances in technology and tracking attracted IBM to digital outdoor

“The main drawback to using out of home media was always how to measure it,” says IBM UK brand advertising manager and brand and identity manager Rosemary Brown. “But advances in technology and tracking are combating this. For me, OOH is probably more trackable than certain parts of print, where you might know the circulation but not if someone has actually read that page, or for how long.

“We’ve done some eye-tracking research with JCDecaux in Heathrow Terminal 1, looking at dwell times, whether people glanced at things, how people received the advertising, what kind of advertising caught their eye,” says Brown.

“A lot of it was common sense: an animation outpaces a static image, for example. But we also found that bright colours such as red draw the eye, and a countdown timer really does grab attention. Viewers repeatedly looked at that because they thought something was going to happen.

“Recently we have been running a touch-sensitive screen at Manchester Airport where we can measure interactions.”

All of this research represents a considerable improvement in knowledge compared to what was known before, says Brown.

“Given that two years ago we had nothing – we knew a poster was outside the business lounge, so the chances were some business people would walk past it. That was essentially the limit of our knowledge.”

Greater knowledge about audiences and advances in technology have combined to make the digital OOH space an exciting one for businesses, says Brown.

IBM’s ‘Thought Leadership’ advertising encompasses print, TV, online and mobile activity. “But I think outdoor is probably one of the most satisfying because it’s so visual and it really has to work on its own terms,” says Brown.

“We have always had more of a free rein to develop our own partnerships with outdoor advertisers. And, of course, in the past few years there have been great opportunities to do advertising in ways that just haven’t been possible before – more engaging ways of doing things.”

In particular, IBM has tried a number of campaigns that highlight its own capabilities by using dynamic data feeds to push the boundaries.

A project linked to the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships showed that new technology and sporting tradition can be an appealing combination for IBM’s target audience. “We have a long-running technology partnership with Wimbledon Tennis Championships. Each year we try to do something that is really cutting-edge,” says Brown.

Initiatives around the tournament have included augmented reality campaigns and live data feeds to digital ads situated at London airports. These were linked to live IBM analytics of key matches that could monitor how the players were performing and tailor screen messages accordingly.

IBM monitored key match performance indicators for each player and compared this with their detailed historic match performance data, which was held for the top 50 seeds. This gave a continually updated health check of their competitive chances against one another.

“It was tied in with the flight information so, for instance, if it was a flight to Spain we would say ‘Looks like Nadal’s not going to be on a flight this evening’. It was clearly analysing data in a dynamic way,” says Brown.

Making connections: Hitachi is using digital OOH to refocus from a consumer to a business brand and better reach its target market

As well as using digital outdoor for big one-off events and travel hubs to target business people, IBM has also worked with the ECNlive network, which fuses a live news feed with digital ads via screens located in landmark corporate buildings.

Sited in areas with high dwell times and designed to capture attention as staff go to and from their work, Brown says screen locations are ideal for sending messages to a business audience.

The network has screens in more than 100 London buildings and aims to reach a business audience of 450,000 people by the time the 2012 Olympics begin. The audience includes staff from companies such as UBS, Google, Estée Lauder and HSBC, while advertisers so far include British Airways, Coutts and JP Morgan Chase.

If brands are becoming excited about the audiences they can reach using this medium, then the evolution of new technology could get things moving faster by allowing the delivery of more complex campaign messages.

Near field communications (NFC) technology offers major opportunities for customer interaction. Sandwich chain EAT and mobile network Orange have been running a joint poster campaign in EAT outlets over the past three months, with an NFC device from Proxama embedded in the creative.

Orange sent SMS messages to 200,000 subscribers with suitable phones, encouraging them to tap their handsets on the posters for a treat, such as a free coffee or cake.

“Three out of four of those customers who did so went on to buy something else as well,” says EAT head of IT Rene Batsford. He says the chain is also considering using the technique to highlight its new corporate delivery service, which has just launched to capitalise on the chain’s portfolio of stores in London and other city centres where there is a high concentration of business users. The brand is also discussing further possible applications with Orange.

The campaign was launched after EAT became convinced of the benefits of contactless technology – having been the first chain to roll it out to its entire estate – and being further encouraged by the success of an iPad app.

For Batsford, NFC offers enormous scope for digital OOH advertising. “We all know where customer engagement is going – it’s going to mobile, the on-the-go opportunity,” he says. A combination of mobile and contactless technology will find its natural home in achieving better customer engagement, he predicts.

In central London at least, and at travel hubs, it seems that use of digital OOH for business is achieving considerable mainstream acceptance. Marketers across the rest of the country must now take up the baton, because with business hubs throughout the UK, using it may soon become a priority.

Case study: Hitachi

Hitachi has been actively targeting business customers with digital out-of-home media, most heavily through London travel hubs, working with Rapport, part of Mediabrands. It has concentrated on the main rail terminals and Heathrow Airport in an effort to catch attention with tailored, dynamic content featuring its products. Naturally, its trains, used on the HS1 high speed line from London to Kent, featured heavily in the creative treatment.

“You need to carefully consider how you use it to get your message across,” says Hitachi Europe head of public affairs Hans Daems. “Our campaign was based around case studies, showing for example how our customers are using our IT solutions, or how they are using our trains.

“The challenge is to find the right balance between a message that is attractive enough and a message that uses the benefits of the channel well in order to stand out. Digital OOH also allows you to get some movement and to get a bit more content in there.”

As a B2B brand, Hitachi concentrates heavily on technological innovation, so using the latest digital technology to reflect its story felt appropriate, says Daems.

Figures from the brand’s post-campaign survey are being kept under wraps, but Daems confirms that the company is happy with what it achieved and that lessons have been taken away/ “The post-campaign survey did show the combination, and ultimately it is all about combination – between digital OOH and magazines and newspapers, especially the ‘digital walls’ on some of the magazines, such as the iPad version of The Economist. They worked really well.”

As a brand that has moved from a consumer space to being mainly business-focused, Hitachi is keeping an open mind about how best to communicate with its customers and where best to reach them. “The first element is how do senior executives consume media? Secondly, we’ve looked at where they are most open to advertising messages,” says Daems, who is optimistic about how the digital OOH sector may evolve to offer more opportunities to brands as technology develops further.

This may include a greater element of the audience interacting with the messages, he says. “And I think it is much more about better segmentation [of the audience]. Having technology that can capture what people in front of digital ads are doing – whether they are looking or not – would also offer quite a number of opportunities.”

Sponsored viewpoint



Alastair Bannerman
Global director, marketing

Eye Out of Home

We run the digital out-of-home (OOH) media at many of the UK’s airports. We believe there is a gap in the understanding of how consumers and business people respond to this type of advertising.

There’s a tremendous amount of debate in the market about the value of digital out-of-home technology and how it can best be exploited by brands. The research we have done confirms that dynamic digital copy heightens the intensity of a brand’s communication considerably, equivalent to multiple static displays.

People were shown digital versus non-digital creative, airport versus city centre executions and dynamic creative versus static, in partnership with brain research company Neuro Imaging. This has never been done before in OOH in the UK and we partnered with companies including TUI, IBM, MasterCard and Olympus to carry this study out.

We measured how personally relevant people find something, how much emotionally they warm to something and how likely they are to commit it to long-term memory.

This is different to all the standard measures of the effectiveness of OOH, which tend to measure exposure only. However, this doesn’t bear much relation to how people think and feel about the ads and what they do as a result.

The results show that different environments, formats, weights and creative treatments have a profound impact on how consumers think and feel about the brands advertised, key to influencing future buying behaviour.

The key brain measures of personal relevance, emotional intensity and long-term memory are shown to be 18% higher in airports than comparable roadside environments.

Instinctively, advertisers have always realised that it’s better to have dynamic copy, but they have never before been able to prove how much more impactful it is. This research reveals that dynamic digital copy scores 21% higher than static copy across those measures. This is key because the industry is trying to work out what the value of digital OOH, how to quantify it and what to pay for it.

Neuro Imaging also gives us an insight into how brands can create the most effective creative campaigns. The human brain likes puzzles and stories, so having to put some work in to solve a campaign and make the connection back to the advertiser means that the advertised brand is more likely to be committed to long-term memory, which we know translates to future buying behaviour.

Market data

  • Greater London has a population of 7.5 million people, but it is central London that most appeals for brands seeking a business audience. Representing 9% of Greater London’s land mass, it is home to 45% of its working population and 55% of its work-related earnings.
  • Central London audiences have a higher than average personal and family income and can be hard to reach, but 90% of them recall seeing outdoor ads during their day. They are frequent users of public transport, with 66% using London Underground or Docklands Light Railway on their daily commute.
  • Airports and other transport hubs in major cities benefit from a high concentration of business passengers, who are captive audiences as they wait for planes and trains.
  • More than half of central London workers who attend business meetings use buses, London Underground or the Docklands Light Railway to get there.
  • 76% of London workers have a smart phone, compared to 30% nationally.


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