Video Board a standout

Torontonians have long insisted that their hometown is, to use the phrase popular back in the 1980s, 'a world-class city.' And now that citizens have the pleasure of watching automotive ads and Ally McBeal promos on the country's largest outdoor video...

Torontonians have long insisted that their hometown is, to use the phrase popular back in the 1980s, ‘a world-class city.’ And now that citizens have the pleasure of watching automotive ads and Ally McBeal promos on the country’s largest outdoor video board…well, who could dispute the claim?

The board, which measures more than 16 feet wide and more than 21 feet high, was installed by Pattison Outdoor at the southeast corner of Toronto’s Bloor and Yonge Streets in December. Advertisers CTV and DaimlerChrysler Canada have signed a five-year deal with Pattison for ownership of this high-profile facing.

Pattison has maintained a superboard at this location – arguably one of the country’s busiest intersections – for some time. But the company felt a large-scale LED display would stand out even more dramatically.

‘It’s one of our premium locations,’ says Lucinda Hamilton, the Pattison account executive responsible for handling the deal. ‘We wanted to do something different.’

This isn’t the first video board in Toronto, but it is the first in the downtown core. Tribar Industries operates a board near the city’s Gardiner Expressway – but that’s a very cluttered location by comparison, Hamilton says. (Pattison also plans to install another board on Yonge Street, somewhere between St. Clair Avenue and Highway 401, in the near future.)

DaimlerChrysler, which was the former occupant of the Bloor-Yonge superboard, negotiated the five-year deal with Pattison through its media planning and buying agency, Pentacom/OMD.

The automaker asked CTV to come on board as a partner because of the latter’s broadcast expertise. CTV currently receives half of the airtime on the board, and picks up half of the tab. (There is talk of bringing in other advertising partners as well, but no decisions have yet been made.)

While the terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed, Hamilton says it includes first right of refusal on the board at the end of the five-year period, as well as first right of refusal on any other video boards that Pattison installs elsewhere.

Mark Wyeth, media planning manager with Pentacom/OMD, says DaimlerChrysler likes the Bloor-Yonge location because it has plenty of traffic, but isn’t as visually cluttered as many of Toronto’s other major intersections.

As an outdoor advertising vehicle, Wyeth says, video offers many advantages over traditional static billboards. ‘The technology’s more intrusive. It’s not unlike television – and television has always been known as an intrusive medium. Basically, we’re bringing the advantages of television to the outdoor arena.’

Since a video board can accommodate any number of different messages, it allows DaimlerChrysler to promote all of its nameplates in the course of a single day, he says. Content can also be changed quickly and cheaply, making the medium much more flexible than traditional outdoor.

Over the holiday season, for example, the automaker was able to plug in promotional spots for a boxing week special. To do the same in billboards, the company would have had to execute a four-week buy, much further in advance.

CTV, for its part, views the board as something of an opportunity to experiment. In addition to running promotional spots, the network may also use the medium to broadcast other forms of programming.

‘The possibility is there to stream live video, much the way NBC does on Times Square in New York,’ says Rick Lewchuk, CTV’s vice-president, program planning and promotion.

While the board’s lack of audio capability does restrict the possibilities, Lewchuk says there are certain types of programming that might work well in the medium, such as election coverage or the game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. (The programming would play on the board at the same time it goes to air on the network.)

It’s probably a while before CTV will pursue this possibility in any sort of ambitious way, Lewchuk says. But there are plans to make some form of test run in the near future – possibly the broadcast of an NHL or NBA game.

Also in this report:

- Let the good times roll: Demand is up, credibility is no longer an issue and turnaround is faster than ever. So why doesn’t outdoor garner a greater share of the advertising pie? p.21

- Billy Bee boards create a buzz p.23

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group