Customized Ad Campaigns Driving Growth of Workplace Media

November 20, 2012

Digital place-based media growing faster than almost every other sector of advertising.

It's a fact — digital place-based media has reached critical mass in the United States. Research from Arbitron shows that 70 percent of consumers ages 12 and up have actively watched a digital video display in a public venue in the last month. This helps to explain why advertisers from many industry sectors and categories have embraced this medium to reach consumers in pretty much every venue setting outside of the home. These settings include supermarkets and shopping malls; medical and dental practices; gas stations; health clubs and spas; hotels; airports; office buildings and more.

Jim Harris, CEO, The Wall Street Journal Office Network

It's no wonder then that place-based media has been growing faster than almost every other sector of advertising. It's equally not surprising that digital advertising at the workplace has grown even faster than the place-based industry as a whole. From a marketer's viewpoint, workplace media provides several advantages:

  • Attracting attention when consumers are not exposed to other advertising platforms and messages.
  • Influencing consumers throughout the day as they make a multitude of purchasing decisions via at-work computers.
  • Targeting audiences by industry, size, specific company, or title.
  • Reaching consumers and business decision makers close to the points of research, consideration, and purchase.
  • Driving consumers to specific retail locations.

While it's true that "TV everywhere" is the mantra of the moment; not all video networks and screens are the same. Differences in screen size, content and content sources, specific placement, clarity, technological capabilities, and more, abound within the world of digital place-based information and advertising networks. The key is to reach consumers and business decision-makers in environments in which they're more likely to be receptive to advertiser messages via screen units that are large, attractive, modern and most importantly, easy to see. And, of course, the network must provide content and information that is important and relevant to the audience at hand.

Research Shows Brand Lift

According to comScore, more than 50 percent of ecommerce purchases take place at work, as business professionals research products and services for their companies and for themselves. Reaching these decision-makers at the office, in a high quality, clutter-free environment has powerful effects.

Now in its sixth year of operation, The Wall Street Journal Office Network (WSJON) continues to add to its roster of large, strategically placed, high-definition screens on which continuously updated news and headlines from The Wall Street Journal are presented, alongside digital video advertising. The Network is located within high-traffic elevator banks and lobbies within 760-plus premier office buildings in 15 U.S. markets. The ability to customize advertising campaigns with proprietary SmartMedia Apps has been one of the drivers of our advertising growth, which has been triple the rate of the digital place-based media industry as a whole. One of the most illustrative case studies of effective use of SmartMedia involved a national drugstore chain that wanted to customize its ads to direct consumers to stores in markets where they could receive the H1N1 flu vaccine. WSJON used its custom mapping capability to "geo-tag" ads on each screen to direct viewers to the very closest retail location selling the vaccines. The campaign was one of several contributing factors in the chain selling out of the flu vaccine less than two weeks after it began.

Recently, a major German auto manufacturer was able to tailor a campaign for one of its SUVs in an effort to enhance its marketing presence at ski resorts throughout the U.S. WSJON was able to insert real-time snow conditions at various resort destinations into space adjacent to its ads. A U.S. auto company, meanwhile, enhanced the national ad campaign for a new model by showcasing its navigation and entertainment system. In the video ads on WSJON, real-time local traffic reports were provided in map form throughout the day in a space that replicated exactly how the touchscreen system appears within the car.

Research proves that the use of place-based digital advertising provides a lift to critical brand effectiveness metrics. After a well-known financial services firm ran digital video ads in office building lobbies for less than one month, leading market research firm Brand Keys conducted a telephone study of people who work in those buildings. Recall of the campaign in office building lobbies exceeded that of magazines, newspapers, online and radio. Brand Keys states that a firm's brand strength and engagement measure are the best predictive metrics of in-market performance. The financial services firm realized a significant increase in these metrics (+11 percent) among those who were exposed to the office campaign, and consideration of the brand improved to four times the category average.

Enhancing "Shopper Marketing"

There are good reasons why "shopper marketing" — the ability to influence consumers as closely as possible to the point of consideration and purchase — is a fast-growing discipline. Back in 1995, John Philip Jones, a professor at the Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University, shook up media planning with a seminal book titled "When Ads Work." In his treatise, Jones postulated that a single advertising exposure could prompt the purchase of a product or service. The key to his thesis was timing: the single advertisement that could move the consumer needle was the most recent in a series of advertising exposures just before a purchase is made. Even though Jones wrote his tome when the Internet was still a gleam in Al Gore's eye, this is precisely where place-based digital advertising shines today.

In his book, Jones made this observation about the importance of product promotion: "Do not advertise without some promotional support. Do not promote without some advertising support." What about doing both in the same place at the same time? A prime example is what a U.S. technology company did to increase purchase and use of its smartphones among small businesses and small-business owners. This company employed WSJON workplace screen advertising, combined with hands-on product demonstrations within the lobby spaces. Research firm Brand Keys found that average purchase intent rose more than 50 percent (compared to a control group that had not attended the demonstrations) and that brand strength and engagement — the Brand Keys predictive gauge — rose more than 60 percent. Most compelling was the fact that among the people who attended the demonstrations and saw ads in the lobbies of their office buildings, actual product sell-through was 16 percent within 120 days of the events. The combination of office building-based ads and product demonstrations outperformed general brand advertising alone by a ratio of 8-to-1.

What lies ahead for the digital place-based space? Technology currently under exploration will enable consumers to interact with video ads in ways that futurists just a few years ago would have envied. Digital place-based ads will provide marketers with solid direct-response metrics that will further enhance their marketing campaigns and show the efficacy and ROI of place-based advertising. The uncharted boundaries of technology represent the only limitation on how successful this already robust, highly visible, and successful medium can become.

Copyright © Platt Retail Institute 2012 and reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. See the entire PRI Resource Library at

Jim Harris is CEO of The Wall Street Journal Office Network, a leading digital place-based news and advertising platform. A graduate of Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, Jim has an extensive background in marketing, advertising and brand management, and serves on the boards of several organizations, including the Digital Place-Based Advertising Association.

Add new comment