If you commute into London on an overground train, chances are you’ll have seen dozens of ads placed by KBH in recent years. The UK’s largest rail media specialist, it claims to reach around 6m consumers a month, 4m of which are in the lucrative commuter bracket. These figures look set to grow.
The number of National Rail journeys doubled from 700,000 to 1.5bn between 2002 and 2012, and is likely to increase by another 400m by 2020, according to the Department for Transport. KBH’s managing director Ian Reynolds talks to City A.M. about the rail advertising opportunity, and why interactivity may be the future of out-of-home (OOH) marketing.
What are the benefits of train ads?
From our perspective, it’s about high consumer dwell time and the frequency of journeys. The average journey time on routes we cover is about 50 minutes. Obviously that’s pretty unique exposure for an ad, and it allows advertisers to put more text into their creative work, prompting people to use smartphones to find out more information. That’s definitely a trend we’ve seen pick up over the last 12 to 18 months.
With frequency, a lot of the commuters are doing the same journey multiple times a week, and that constant drip messaging is obviously a very effective way for advertisers to hit home. The higher incomes of commuters relative to the rest of the population is another advantage, as is the dramatic rise in the number of train journeys in recent years, although this can also make things challenging logistically.
So it’s not always plain sailing?
We post over 60,000 train cards every two to four weeks on over 6,500 carriages. This can be a bit of a logistical nightmare. We manage to solve it the only way you can – good old fashioned man power.
Another challenge is the train companies themselves. Rightly, they focus on running reliable services. So working with them on anything new, like bringing in new ad formats or technologies, can be a slow process. But they are getting better at this.
You mentioned smartphones. How big is the opportunity around connected OOH campaigns?
The OOH industry, led by the Outdoor Media Centre, is really keen to demonstrate how posters are leading to mobile engagement. And connectivity is only going to improve on trains.
But with NFC [near field communication, a short-range wireless transmission technology], I don’t think enough people are currently aware of what it does. Apple’s recent announcement, that the technology is going to be used a lot on its new iPhones, will help, as will the rise of contactless payments in general. As people get used to tapping and swiping as a way of interacting and receiving information, behavioural shifts should occur. But I still think it’s a few years away yet.
What’s your favourite piece of OOH advertsising that you haven’t worked on?
The one that stands out is Adidas’s All or Nothing black London bus wraps this summer. The colouring was disruptive – people are used to seeing red buses, not black ones, and it linked very well with social media and the timing of the World Cup.