In Chicago, Convenience Rather Than Cold

Two of the sweet spots for digital out-of-home advertising are convenience and distraction -- using technology to make a tedious or unpleasant situation shorter in duration, or at least less tedious and unpleasant. One good example comes from Chicago, where the Wicker Park and Bucktown neighborhood has received a new network of 13 digital signs, installed and operated by RedPost in coffee shops, book stores, and similar establishments, which display the arrival times of Chicago Transit Authority buses approaching nearby stops. Four more signs will be installed in coming months.


The WPB-RedPost program simply taps into an existing data stream from CTA's Bus Tracker and sends this data via WiFi to signs that display the information alongside neighborhood announcements (with obvious potential for paid advertising). Retail partners have an obvious incentive to participate, as the signs attract guests who may well become patrons, and the benefit to transit riders is obvious, as they are spared the necessity of standing outside for any longer than absolutely necessary during the Chicago winter (in February 2009 the record low was -18 degrees Fahrenheit) without running the risk of missing their bus.



The program isn't big or revolutionary, but that's kind of the point: there is low-hanging DO fruit of this kind just waiting to be picked in public spaces across America. Indeed, the idea is so obvious that you kind of wonder why everyone isn't doing it already. Actually a similar program is being contemplated in Boston, also known for its frigid winters, and mass transit officials from Boston are checking out the Chicago pilot program to see how it works.

With their inevitable "dwell time," transportation venues are a natural choice for DO networks looking for captive audiences, while the latter may respond gratefully to any such network offering a convenient service.

For example, last year JetBlue installed interactive video screens at the gates of its new terminal at New York's JFK Airport, allowing travelers who don't want to leave the gate to order food for delivery from airport dining options. Overall, there are 200 such screens around Terminal 5, which sees traffic from about 50,000 people per day, with an average visit duration of 90 minutes.

The JetBlue digital network, called Re:vive, was designed by New York's Deepend for OTG Management, which runs the airport's food and beverage concessions. When no one is interacting with the digital displays in the Re:vive network, it features 30-second and 60-second video ad spots from a variety of ad categories, targeted by the time of day. In the interactive menu section, there are also spots for banner advertising.

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