You Are Here (and Probably Seeing an Ad)
By STUART ELLIOTT
Published: August 14, 2008
StoreBoard Media puts ads on the security pedestals in retail stores.
MADISON AVENUE is having an out-of-home experience.
The ardor to reach consumers outside the home – and outside the realm of traditional media like television – continues to grow among marketers. They hope to fight back against technologies like digital video recorders, which make it easier to avoid conventional advertisements like commercials.
Out-of-home media was once commonly known as outdoor media, reflecting its roots in billboards, posters and signs. The term has been changed to reflect the expansion into places like airports, offices, malls, schools and health clubs, where the ads are inside but not inside the home.
That has also inspired another advertising term, place-based media.
The new places for ads – as well as the addition of digital and video capabilities to signs, bus shelters, phone kiosks and other sites – are among the reasons ad spending in the out-of-home category are second only to online advertising in growth.
The goal is to engage consumers “during the course of their daily lives in places they go on a frequent basis,” said Rick Sirvaitis, president at StoreBoard Media in New York, which puts ads on the security pedestals at the entrances and exits of retail outlets like drug stores.
“In 36 years in advertising, for the first time I can look people in the eye and guarantee every consumer will be exposed to the message,” Mr. Sirvaitis said, referring to a StoreBoard sign, “because you can’t miss it.”
StoreBoard has deals with chains like CVS, Duane Reade and Longs Drug Stores, where ads appear for brands that the stores sell, like Nexxus hair care products, as well as for nonstore advertisers like Broadway shows.
“We’re always looking for places where ads are not expected,” said Greg Corradetti, director for account services at Serino Coyne in New York, an agency owned by the Omnicom Group that is buying StoreBoard to promote shows like “A Chorus Line” and “Mamma Mia!”
“The feedback we get is mainly that it’s noticed, maybe more than other things we do,” Mr. Corradetti said of the ads.” You walk in the store, and before you even get inside it’s right in your face.”
That brings up a common concern about out-of-home media: crossing the fine line between pervasiveness and intrusiveness. The more that ads creep into new locations, the bigger the threat that consumers will be reminded of ad clutter on TV and in other mainstream media.
“The consumer will let us know when it’s too much,” said Wally Brewster, senior vice president for marketing and communications at General Growth Properties in Chicago, which owns more than 200 shopping malls in 45 states. The company displays ads on sites like the “You are here” kiosks in common areas.
“With our in-house research, we’re always engaging our consumers to make sure our environments are relevant and productive for them,” he added.
Beginning on Saturday, General Growth will introduce at 150 properties a promotion called UR Votes Count, aimed at the teenagers who shop at – and hang out in – malls. Exhibits, created by Grand Central Marketing in New York and Los Angeles, will include mock polling places where youngsters ages 13 to 17 can cast ballots in the coming presidential election.
Sponsors of the promotion include Discover credit cards, SoBe beverages, Chip & Pepper apparel and CosmoGirl magazine. The exhibits are scheduled to remain through Sept. 21 and the vote tallies are to be released.
There is a Web site for the promotion (urvotescount.com), also created by Grand Central Marketing, and a tie-in with Declare Yourself, an organization that encourages civic participation among younger Americans of voting age.
In trying to avoid alienating consumers with too many ads outside the home, “it’s all about balance,” said Ron Greenberg, senior vice president for digital media and chief marketing officer at the TouchTunes Corporation in New York. “You have to be careful.”
Consumers will “give you permission to present your ad” he said, “as long as you’re not disturbing what they’re there to do.”
TouchTunes operates more than 35,000 digital jukeboxes in bars, restaurants and stores, carrying ads from marketers like Sony BMG Music Entertainment, the Universal Music Group, Verizon Wireless and the Warner Music Group.
In another indication of the interest in out-of-home media, deals are reminiscent of those among traditional media companies. For instance, TouchTunes is planning to acquire Barfly Interactive Networks in Austin, Tex., which operates an entertainment network that adds sponsored messages to the TV screens on the walls of about 150 bars and taverns in cities like Chicago, Dallas and Philadelphia.
“We’re digital, we’re interactive, we’re speaking the language of that 21-to-34-year-old” who is prized by marketers of beer, liquor and other beverages, said Bob Weinschenk, president and chief executive at Barfly, which will become an autonomous unit of TouchTunes under its current management.
Barfly has sponsorship agreements with marketers like Anheuser-Busch, Diageo and Skyy Spirits, which are attracted by the ability of the ads on the Barfly screens “to tell a story over time,” Mr. Weinschenk said, referring to the length of a visit to a bar by a typical customer.
Barfly is also alert to suggestions its ads are clutter, and provides the bars with buttons that can turn off the advertising.
“When you step into one of our bars, we don’t text you, ‘Hello, welcome,’ ” Mr. Weinschenk said. Rather, “it’s about engagement” with consumers, he added, which could be disrupted if they perceive the ads as intrusive.
A version of this article appeared in print on August 15, 2008, on page C6 of the New York edition.