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Bus Shelters – A canvas for advertising genius

November 25, 2016

Howard Lonstein, Marketing Manager for Outdoor Network unpacks the advertising impact of bus shelters and why they have historically been underutilised and undervalued in South Africa.

Globally, street furniture is a highly sought after media. It is used by a host of top end brands for a range of campaign types, using innovative technology such as augmented reality, social integration and Near Field Communication (NFC) to deliver campaign messaging.

Campaigns range from key creative and digitally enhanced bus shelter activations as executed for Coca-Cola in Singapore, to strategic static and geographically specific campaigns designed to raise awareness around events such as football matches. Internationally, street furniture accounts for a substantial portion of Out of Home spend in developed and mature media markets. This clearly positions the various advertising options available within the platform as highly sought after demand inventory.

This however is not the case when evaluating the South African local landscape. The reasons for this are varied and include lack of detailed research data, which is now starting to become available, including defined audience information such as reach, frequency, and Gross Rating Points. Understanding the exposure they offer, and the reach they provide seems to be an area of confusion, exacerbating the situation. This results in media planners and strategists often overlooking the inclusion of street furniture into overall media, including digital and social media campaigns, which have proven to be a great extension to achieve desired reach and frequency.

Allow me to unravel the uncertainties around commuter shelters. Firstly they look good, they fit into the city landscape and serve a purpose – to both commuters and advertisers. Local metropolitan councils have recently upgraded bus shelters and have added more shelters to the city grids. Also in terms of visibility, approximately 813 million passenger trips are made on buses annually, and this number is set to grow further with the addition of new BRT systems. From the point of view of geographical location, bus shelters are very strategically placed on main arterial routes and are thus also visible to motorists and pedestrians.

Commuter shelters also allow for flexibility in terms of the size of a campaign; from directional branding on a single commuter shelter advertising a school or a restaurant, to branding that covers every bus shelter in an entire city from north to south and east to west.

So what makes commuter shelters as an out of home advertising platform truly unique?

The coverage and scalability of street furniture enables brands to create strategic presence in areas where other media potentially do not have access to. They’re also really good value for money. Small brands and multi-national brands that have harnessed the power of street furniture have experienced excellent return on investment. With this in mind, street furniture has been adopted and well received in certain regions, such as Cape Town and Tshwane. In these areas, large brands such as Standard Bank and H&M (to mention a few), have featured broad campaigns.

Street Furniture also allows for high creativity. Take for example the recent Med Lemon ‘Sneezing Shelter’ and BMW Motorrad ‘Blink and you’ll miss it’ campaigns. In both cases, the brands received additional reach through extended and viral digital campaigns spurred by the bus shelter creative.

In the Out of Home environment, location plays a vital role, as such the opportunities for street furniture are endless; limited only by the imagination and the ability of the creative to deliver an effective message. At Outdoor Network we have seen and produced bus shelter campaigns with illumination, extensions, sound effects and more, all designed with the specific intention of creating impact and extending reach beyond simple roadside visibility.

Well-located and sophisticated shelter design provides agencies and brands with ideal advertising opportunities and creative execution possibilities. While South Africa may not necessarily match other developed economies’ use of street furniture, its use locally ticks more than just one single box.

Street Furniture, bus shelters in particular, are a valuable asset within the marketing mix. They provide a great platform for clever creative execution, they offer frequency, reach and geographical targeting. And in terms of getting a brand message to the target audience, the medium really hits home.