Posting success stories

There is little doubt out-of-home media works for the packaged goods business, whether by itself or in support of one of its more expensive - and extensive - media cousins.Take the case of the small Canadian cough medicine manufacturer which boasts...

There is little doubt out-of-home media works for the packaged goods business, whether by itself or in support of one of its more expensive – and extensive – media cousins.

Take the case of the small Canadian cough medicine manufacturer which boasts that its principal product, Buckley’s Mixture, tastes awful.

Several years later

Dave Rieger, marketing and sales manager at W.K. Buckley in Toronto, says even now, six or seven years after the company’s transit ads featuring President Frank Buckley were posted, and a couple of years after the campaign finished, the firm still gets calls about them.

The ads featured Frank Buckley telling consumers that the product tastes awful but works.


The copy on one read, ‘I’m dedicated to ensuring every new batch of Buckley’s tastes as bad as the last;’ on another, ‘I came by my bad taste honestly. I inherited it from my father.’

In fact, Rieger says W.K. Buckley is looking at transit ads again for this year.

The success of the Buckley campaign could be dismissed as a one-off.

But there are numerous other examples of how outdoor advertising does work: the leaping goldfish that preferred Evian water to that in its fish tank; any of Campbell Soup’s clever efforts (one such example is the familiar Red & White can which resembles a ball of yarn stuck through with knitting needles and the tagline, ‘Campbell’s Soup. Better than a Sweater.’)

A recently released study by the University of Alberta, commissioned by Toronto-based Mediacom, the country’s largest out-of-home company which represents and is part of a network of more than 25 outdoor firms across Canada, confirms the success of the medium.

Variety of ways

Summing up the university’s findings, John Bilney, Mediacom vice-president, creative director, says ‘posters’ work in a variety of ways and at different levels.

According to Bilney, they work rationally, but more importantly, they communicate at emotional, social and subliminal levels when considered in their own context of street, mall, airport, train station and subway car.

The supply of out-of-home media to packaged goods manufacturers is deep and wide.

Types of boards

As well as the ubiquitous and established billboards, there are superboards, pixelboards, backlit boards, posters, mall posters, motion posters, air posters, bus boards, transit cards, transit shelter posters, wall murals, supermarket cart ads, airships and more.

The medium includes such singular efforts as Labatt Breweries of Canada’s glass-encased ad found outside Toronto’s SkyDome, which bubbles with a recreation of the stuff the brewer’s fortune rests on.

Michael Chesney, president of Murad in Toronto, says about 10% of his business is with packaged goods companies.

Wall murals

Chesney says the firm has produced wall murals for Black Label beer, Coca-Cola – a 5,000-square-foot effort – 7-UP and Primo Spaghetti, among others.

He says the Primo mural was the company’s first, and the deal with the pasta maker lasted five years.

In fact, according to Chesney, Primo is so pleased the company has just signed on for another five, and he notes Murad is in negotiations with Dentyne chewing gum for one of the company’s biggest contracts.

Chesney says he is seeing much greater interest in the kind of advertising he offers from packaged goods companies, even though the lure of tv for some firms remains strong.

‘We’re seeing a much stronger interest because now things have gotten so bad [economically, advertisers] need something new,’ he says.

‘They need, finally, to entertain people to a greater degree. Their television commercials might be fun, but they don’t really involve the audience at all.

‘If you put something on the street that is larger than life, and you see someone painting, or whatever the case may be, you get more involved with it.’

Greg Gallop, marketing manager at Gallop and Gallop in Toronto, estimates 10% to 15% of his company’s business is conducted with the packaged goods sector, including clients with chewing gum, breath mints and cough and cold medicines to sell.


Gallop says the trend in advertising appears to be a resistance by consumers who do not want to be hit with ‘tons’ of information about a product; they want to see the product instead.

‘One little line, that’s all they want,’ he says.

‘And, of course, outdoor works incredibly well at that. It’s not a medium where you can put 30 words on a billboard and expect the message to be conveyed.’

Moving Impressions is a new and different kind of out-of-home medium.

The Toronto-based firm supplies advertisers with ‘rolling billboards’ – the sides of fleets of trucks with vinyl painted panels, eight feet by 22 feet, attached to them.

Lyle Hamilton, president of Moving Impressions, says the company developed its own removable system for the panels, giving them a life of two or three years.

Hamilton says he recommends at least three-month campaigns for his clients to allow enough time to build reach and frequency.


He says one of Moving Impressions’ most recent clients was Slimfast, the slimming aid, which ran a six-month campaign from May to October last year.

Unlike other outdoor suppliers, Hamilton says his rolling billboards can go where they cannot.

He cites Highway 401, Toronto’s main east-west artery, as one place his advertising penetrates, adding other advertisers have no access to the highway.

Ian Madell, vice-president, business development at Mediacom, is bullish on out-of-home.

Madell says he finds clients are spending more money on outdoor advertising because it brings more sales, which, ultimately, is what advertisers want.

Clearly, it follows that with so much outdoor available, there must be the demand for it.

Best-known names

And among those using the medium are some of the best-known product names in the country.

Kate Potter, director of media at Labatt Breweries of Canada, says her company is spending the same amount of money on advertising, but a greater percentage of it is going on outdoor.

For Potter, out-of-home advertising has several advantages.

‘The benefits of outdoor to me are that it provides broad reach, it provides local proximity, it is a cost-efficient vehicle – particularly when one considers the production elements – the message is easily changed and I can get very specific in my neighborhood messages,’ she says.

‘I can be specific in a Yonge-Eglinton core [an affluent, younger, uptown Toronto neighborhood,] or an Ajax-Oshawa, (Ontario urban blue-collar cities) neighborhood.’

Potential drawbacks

As for the potential drawbacks of out-of-home, Potter cannot see any save those imposed by the Ontario Liquor Licensing Board.

She says what out-of-home does do is present a creative challenge.

‘It forces our creatives to be innovative in a design or a message because it has to be very simple and it doesn’t have the ability to tell a story with sight, sound, motion that broadcast does,’ Potter says.

Rieger is blunt about why his company chose outdoor to promote its Buckley’s Mixture – cost.

‘That was the key factor right there,’ says Rieger, who agrees he found recognition and recall also played big parts in the Buckley’s transit campaign.

‘For us, because of our size, and because we are small, we looked for areas where our competitors weren’t in,’ he says.

‘A Benylin line or a Vick’s have very large [advertising] budgets, and their first choice is television. It’s hard for us to compete on a production basis, and on media buys. Transit was not an area any of our competitors seemed to be in.’

Doug Humfries, director of marketing – brands, at Coca-Cola Canada, says there are four reasons why his company uses out-of-home, two of them specific to its product and category.

Humfries says the first two reasons are traditional, strong media reasons.

Extends campaign

‘[Out-of-home] helps to extend our broadcast campaign of television and radio, and provides additional frequency,’ he says, adding he believes those reasons for using the medium are valid for any product category.

‘What we feel that it does for us, [too,] is that it gives us in-market presence, which is important for a soft drink brand, and [provides] strong visuals which when you have dominant, strong red-and-white colors and distinctive bottles, it can be a very powerful street level presence.’

Humfries, who suggests Coca-Cola was one of the pioneers of outdoor advertising with its formerly familiar red disc sign, says the medium has always been an important part of Coke’s media mix and will continue to be so.

Work creatively

Like Potter, Humfries thinks that to get the most out of out-of-home, it has to really work creatively.

‘I think it has to be tremendously simple and impactful,’ he says. ‘People who do that well win huge in outdoor advertising in our opinion.’

As an example of outdoor that works, Humfries turns to advertising Coke placed last year in Montreal for that city’s celebrations of its founding 350 years ago.

The company was one of the four principal sponsors of the events marking the anniversary.

‘For the first time ever in the history of the company, we took our unique Coca-Cola script and we spelt out Montreal in [it,]‘ Humfries says.

‘We had three different types of outdoor advertising,’ he says. ‘We had superboards, billboards, and then we also did transit shelters, but we completely made over the transit shelters and made [their] roofs the round top of a can.’

(The use of Coca-Cola script to write ‘Montreal’ recalls the use of the unique script used on another, universally popular form of outdoor advertising – T-shirts.

(In the Middle East and elsewhere some years ago, red-and-white T-shirts spelling out Coca-Cola in Hebrew and Arabic – instantly recognizable to visitors despite the lettering – were popular.

(The shirts have since disappeared, and now might be considered collector’s items.)

The use of out-of-home advertising, although still a much smaller part of the packaged goods marketing mix than tv, radio or magazines, is increasing.

David Chung, senior vice-president and national media director at ad agency Scali McCabe Sloves in Toronto, says despite the use of the medium being flat for the moment because of the economy, interest in it by packaged goods companies is increasing as secondary support.

Chung estimates as much as 40% of his agency’s business comes from packaged goods clients such as Ault Food, Ralston Purina and Best Foods.

In 1990, he says outdoor had about 8.3% of net advertising revenues, adding the out-of-home Scali places is probably a bit more than that.

‘I think interest in out-of-home media by packaged goods advertisers has been increasing for the last several years, however the use of the medium in the past couple of years has probably become stable or flat with marginal increases from a share standpoint,’ Chung says.

‘I think that is probably more because of the economy today,’ he says.

‘From an interest standpoint, I think the reason that more packaged goods advertisers have been looking at out-of-home media as secondary support is they may not yet have it in their heads they can increase out-of-home as their major primary medium.

‘They certainly have been a lot more willing to consider out-of-home as a complement to television, or as a complement to magazines or other media they have been using.’

Bruce Grondin, senior vice-president and director of media services at Young & Rubicam in Toronto, agrees with Chung.

Spending increasing

Grondin, who estimates his shop draws up to 35% of its business from such notables as Hostess Frito-Lay, Colgate-Palmolive and Cadbury Beverages, says overall spending on out-of-home by his packaged goods clients is increasing, in some instances as a primary medium and as a support medium in others.

‘When we launched lemon ginger ale, we came up with a very simple idea,’ he says.

‘Awareness of Canada Dry ginger ale is very high, so, creatively, we did a huge visual with a bottle of Canada Dry with a lemon inside.

Reason to move

‘So the reason to move to outdoor – it was a very simple, dramatic explanation of what we were saying and we could get immediate awareness very quickly.’

But Grondin says with other clients, such as Colgate-Palmolive and Hostess FritoLay, transit is just the ticket, although as a secondary medium.

Fiona Gallagher, media director at Harrod and Mirlin – the shop that gave outdoor the award-winning billboard of a goldfish named Wanda leaping out of her bowl towards a bottle of Evian spring water – believes spending on out-of-home by her packaged goods clients, which include Nabisco, has remained about the same.

Frequency is one reason Gallagher says her shop goes to outdoor, citing the case of Evian, which used superboards that stayed in place for three or four months to encourage daily usage.


She says the other reason is visibility – the creation of a feeling that the brand is everywhere.

As for the future of the medium, opinion is upbeat, and the flexibility of out-of-home much appreciated.

With technology driving out-of-home, Grondin believes there will be a lot more ‘spectaculars’ in future.

He says there is no reason why there should not be outside versions of SkyDome’s Jumbotron, a huge video screen that screens replays of touchdowns and missed fly balls between ads for a host of products.

Grondin says in five years there could be ‘talking transit shelters’, in which consumers might push a button on a specially installed tv screen to see a spot telling more about a product being advertised.

More movement

Chesney believes the future of outdoor includes more movement, more 3-D and more neon.

And as for wall painting, he says, ‘We [can] handle anything.’

Potter predicts instantly changing messages, holograms and even interactive outdoor.

The predictions of all three seem plausible and necessary.

Out-of-home, which gathers just a fraction – some say as little as 2% – of all advertising spending, must continue to show its willingness to innovate to survive.

And it probably will.

As Grondin says, ‘With outdoor, no idea is a dumb idea.’