I’m not the type to initiate gratuitous banter with strangers. I’m the rude girl in the elevator feigning some urgent text message to avoid talking to you about the weather. I’m the one in the checkout queue staring at the fluorescent lights like a vacuous zombie to block out your screaming baby. And I’m that snob on the train who winces when you start an inane conversation about Paris Hilton on the front page.

Aside from establishing what an appallingly insular human being I am, the fact is that many people like me are in prime ‘receiving’ mode in numerous locations throughout the day. Whether an elevator, checkout or train, these locations all represent innovative advertising space exposed to typically elusive audiences. Consumers who often manage to evade mass media, due to their busy schedules or media savvy, can be specifically targeted based on their location. An idea sold to someone in their home can be invasive, interrupting their favourite TV program, their music, their time to chill out with a good book, or simply their time for domestic duties.

It is exceedingly difficult for advertisers to predict the mindset of a consumer on the receiving end of a TVC or radio spot; however, targeting a certain environment with out of home (OOH) advertising gives you the chance to leverage a few key details about your audience. Advertisers looking to place an ad in a gym, for example, can safely assume their audience values health.

“Reaching consumers in a targeted environment enables the right message to be delivered at the right time to the desired audience,” confirms Oliver Roydhouse, managing director of Inlink, which operates a network of digital screens in the elevators and lobbies of CBD office towers. “In a targeted environment, advertisers can better understand the consumer sensibility and tailor creative accordingly. As a result, consumer reaction to advertising messages may deliver better ROI.”

Many OOH advocates believe the onslaught of digital is deterring companies from traditional advertising space. “New technology such as DVD recorders and access to broadband internet is all changing the ‘time spent’ with traditional media,” says Brendan Cook, chief executive officer of Network Outdoor. “Recent research has shown that with the decline in traditional media, OOH will be 77 percent more important in marketing to consumers in the next five years, and TV will decline by 70 percent [Roy Morgan Research 2006],” cites Cook. He also believes that targeted environments generally provide a longer dwell time to make sure the message is fully absorbed.

The significance of your chosen location cannot be underestimated. It can carry relevance to your product or service; speak directly to a select demographic (thereby eliminating wastage), be positioned within close proximity to the point of purchase and can also represent an environment conducive to maximum frequency. “Environments segment the audience and the best environments create a connection with the audience,” explains David Lister, general manager – sales and marketing at Ultimate Media. “If the environment is a positive one, like a gym or a bar, the consumer has chosen to be there and is in a leisure time mindset; they are therefore open and receptive to messages and those messages carry the endorsement of the environment.”

Before leaping into OOH, examining your consumer in their chosen location is imperative. “Simply reaching consumers in the right environment doesn’t guarantee a profitable return,” warns Stephen Deane, strategic director at MindShare. You need to understand what content and contact offerings a brand requires to connect with consumers, he continues.

Bars and clubs: how to drink and drive sales.

The concept of communicating with consumers in a place in which they are most positive and relaxed has been taken to the extreme with a product called Wizmark. According to Luke Berry, managing director of Innovative Solutions Oceania Group, the 18- to 30-year-old male market can be resistant to most advertising. But what better way to speak to them than when they are captive at the urinal? A study on males conducted by the Amsterdam Airport showed that if there is something to aim at in a urinal, men will go for it. While in Europe, Berry first encountered Wizmark Talking Urinal Cakes, a device that activates an advertiser’s recorded message when urinated on.

Berry’s company decided to capitalise on the ‘urinal market’, and now offers a range of products from Wizmark to HAUB – heat activated urinal boards. “When using Wizmark or HAUB the advertiser gets around 45 seconds of undivided attention, which is supposedly the time it takes an average male to do a wee,” explains Berry. “They can’t really change the channel in the bathroom so to speak, so the message has a higher chance of getting delivered. Our research also showed that Wizmark becomes a talking point so it definitely has that viral component as well.”

The medium is expected to work best with alcoholic beverages. So far, Innovative Solutions has supplied products for Tooheys and Stolichnaya vodka campaigns. Tooheys jumped into the urinal with a campaign for Extra Dry Platinum. The affable urinal cake would announce: “Thank you for your excellent DNA sample. It has been sent to the Platinum testing facility for analysis. Please submit another sample after your next Tooheys Extra Dry Platinum. See you soon.” Innovative Solutions’ urinal products have also been used in bathrooms of bars in Sydney to promote drink spiking awareness, with the use of the medium achieving significant media interest.

While these tactics may seem to be just ‘taking the piss’, research attests to the overwhelming potential of this environment. According to an ACNielsen study commissioned by Ultimate Media, the bar environment has a total monthly traffic of eight million, or a reach of 59 percent of all people aged 18 to 39.

Public transport: on the right track

Fairfax’s Australian Financial Review has firmly targeted the corporate crowd through a long-standing OOH campaign with Adshel in the public transport environment. Anthony Xydis, marketing director of Adshel, advises marketers and advertisers to approach campaigns in this location from an all-encompassing perspective. “Commuters’ mindsets change depending on whether they are on their way to work or homeward bound,” observes Xydis.

“Commuters on their way to work are still waking up, bored, stressed, in their own world and planning the day ahead. Conversely, when commuters are on their way home they get a chance to relax and are more likely to be thinking about what’s for dinner, catching up with friends, fitness and getting back to the nest after getting through the rush.” In this context Xydis believes OOH advertising can be used to show understanding and sympathy or bring something refreshingly new to the commuter’s daily routine.

“Commuters are prone to impulse decisions – what am I going to eat? Where am I stopping off? What am I going to purchase?” says Xydis. “Therefore categories that benefit most from advertising in a commuter environment include FMCG, food and beverage and products available to the route trade, such as gum, newspapers, magazines and phone cards.”

Outdoor events: the grass is always greener

This is an environment that is invariably created from the ground up, which means that you are presented with a veritable blank canvas in terms of advertising space. Think laterally, put yourself in the muddy, grass-stained shoes of your audience and remember you already have a head start because this group’s state of mind is usually positive and ready to respond.

A product designed to heighten this positivity is the recent creation from Out-A-Box, a ground seat that comes with a table, drink holders and a parasol. The eco-friendly cardboard can be covered in the client’s colours, logo or tagline – a dramatic visual when you’re setting up an outdoor event with a sea of a 100 or more Out-A-Box seats. The products have been in the European marketplace for just over two years and on Australian shores for six months.

“Banners on the perimeter fences are expensive and rarely noticed,” claims Tiffany Cowling, sales director for Out-A-Box Australia. “The audience is too keen to get in and have their ‘experience’ and too tired at the time of leaving. This also applies to stage branding – once the acts are performing, the audience is concentrating on them, not the surroundings. This is especially so at night.”

According to Cowling, the age bracket of 18 to 34 doesn’t want to be ‘advertised’ to; in fact they invariably find it offensive and intrusive. “Giving free drinks does not necessarily bring about recall. By interacting and giving them a gift that has a use and that they can re-use, we are reaching them on a level which says, ‘Let us do something for you’,” says Cowling.

The gym: joining the junkies

In an image-conscious space like the gym, the scope for advertising exists not only in the health food sphere, but indeed for any product endorsing self-improvement, from the automotive industry to cosmetics. “The size and growth of the fitness market ensures that advertisers are speaking to normal, everyday people who consider exercise a part of their daily routine,” says Michael Ryan, director of Active Media Group (AMG).

Clients already keyed into this, include big names like Samsung, Nivea, Sunsilk, Listerine, Colgate and Lynx. AGM currently operates on an integrated platform across everything from 1200 by 1800 fully illuminated backlit boards and A3 panels in change rooms, to mirror and floor decals and sampling.

Ryan argues that gym members are a group with such heavily scheduled lifestyles that this is often the only medium that has any real advertising clout. “People are in a heightened state of awareness whilst working out,” he notes. “Blood is flowing, they are thinking positive thoughts about themselves and this translates to a positive association with your brand.”

David Lister of Ultimate Media agrees, “The fitness channel is self-improvement ‘my time’. When the consumer has stopped moving they have the dwell time to consume external messages with full attention.”

The office: seducing the suit

“Elevators are known for awkward interactions and uncomfortable silences,” says Inlink’s Oliver Roydhouse. “This environment is unique because distractions are often welcome with passengers rarely describing elevator rides as ‘my time’. For advertisers, elevators are the perfect place to reach their audience from 7am to 7pm, a time when traditional or mass media consumption levels drop.”

There is no debating the high value of the corporate demographic – these people are brand-conscious, cashed-up and in roles that make significant business purchases on behalf of their company. “As these people are time-poor, viewing ads and news in elevators can be a welcome source of information, resulting in high recall rates of 43 percent [average over four Roy Morgan elevator effectiveness studies from 2001 to 2006],” says Roydhouse.

Inlink works with airline clients such as Qantas, Virgin Atlantic and Scandinavian Airlines, appealing to the 33 percent of the audience who intend to travel internationally for business in next six months; auto clients like BMW, Alfa Romeo, Mitsubishi Pajero and VW, appealing to the 37 percent of the audience who intend to spend over $40,000 when they purchase a new car within the next six months; and personal finance clients like NAB, ANZ and CBA, appealing to the 61 percent of the audience who own or are paying off their own home or the 22 percent who own an investment property.

University: appeasing the academics

Another challenging audience is the media wary 18- to 24-year-old university market. When tackling a group well-educated in the trickery of semiotics, advertisers must create campaigns that are cool, current and clear of condescension. For those that succeed, the rewards are twofold – today’s students not only possess more independence in purchase decisions, but have access to more funds than ever before.

“For many, it’s the first time they’ve had any real independence,” says Emma Bennetto, events and promotions officer at Melbourne University Student Union. “Some have moved out of home for the first time, and will be making their first real purchasing decisions with household items, entertainment and travel. Others live at home, work part-time, and have a significant disposable income as a result.”

The response to the campaign will differ depending on how fresh the student is to the campus world. “From our experience, first-years (particularly in orientation week) love freebies or trials of a product,” reports Bennetto. “International students show an interest in telecommunications and fast food. They also require bank accounts while at university, while others are furnishing empty apartments.”

Another advantage with this target market is its brand loyalty. “This audience appreciates brands that they know well,” says Anthony Xydis of Adshel. “Familiarity is a key signifier of quality and reinforcing top of mind awareness is crucial to impacting their brand decisions.”

Bennetto also recommends hosting an event as a powerful channel on campus. “An event with credibility, colour and noise, will get the students reacting positively,” she says. “But beware – students know when a 50-year-old in a suit is marketing to them.”

Kerry McCabe of Eye issues a similar warning: “This trendsetting, tech-savvy consumer segment spends a significant amount of time on campus and they are known for being high avoiders of mainstream media,” he says.

Airports: hitting high flyers

McCabe encourages those chasing long-term branding opportunities to consider signage in airports. “American Express, as an example, holds long-term promotional areas in airports,” says McCabe. Eye’s extensive airport coverage encompasses large format externals, internal backlit eyelites and wall mounts, and scrolling and digital displays nationally. Eye covers the business or leisure traveller’s journey, as they move from check-in and security, to the retail precinct, to departures and arrivals, right through to baggage collection.

Last year Optus embraced the benefits offered within the airport environment and sponsored a gate lounge for its small to medium business campaign. “Tailored Eye Fly products such as light projections and wall wraps were used to meet the campaign objectives,” says McCabe. “Optus staff interacted with passengers offering the opportunity to trial their new products online. Making great use of long dwell times and communicating the message to travellers willing to interact with products led to highly successful campaign results.”

Adshel is also a player in this OOH environment. “Coverage at Sydney International Airport provides a unique opportunity to reach the world’s top decision-makers in a captive environment,” says MD Anthony Xydis.

While the potential in OOH is patent, it is imperative to approach this medium with constant sensitivity to your chosen location. “One of the biggest challenges remains a lack of quality creative in OOH environments,” says McCabe. “Quite often, well-planned campaigns are poorly executed when creative is adapted from other media. OOH environments are unique and greater impact can be achieved through implementations that are created specifically for OOH.”