Australia’s growing commuter audience is one of the
most engaged and willing to receive advertising mes-
sages. Celia Johnson finds out why the travelling pub-
lic are so receptive, why brands should connect with
them and what will be next.
s broadcast audiences shrink, by reading an advertiser’s message,” observes Nick Population and Housing (2006). A Nielsen
fragment and turn away from so- Keenan, head of non-broadcast at MediaCom. Panorama survey revealed that a majority of
called “push” advertising, out-of- Bruce Mundell, director of The Exchange at respondents (71%) travelled to work or study by
home (OOH) media appears to have Mindshare, agrees: “It’s a great time to tap into that car across the five major cities from June 2008 to
the upper hand. Media buyers audience…because they’re spending up to an hour May 2009. Travel by bus accounted for 18% of
IMAGE: CHRIS L JONES, PHOTOLIBRARY.COM.AU
describe Australia’s growing commuter audience travelling and they’re generally doing it by them- commuters, while 21.8% took the train, 4.7% the
as one of the most engaged and willing to receive selves and desperate for a distraction.” tram and 14.6% walked. The study, which surveyed
ad messages, with many welcoming the distraction almost seven million people aged 18 and over, also
of radio, billboards and posters on trips to and The commuter revealed some differences between the major
from work. Every week more than nine million Australians cities, with Sydney having the highest percentage
“The commuter audience is a more captive audi- travel to and from work, according to the most of train commuters (28%) and walkers (19%),
ence who is more than willing to pass the time away recent Australian Bureau of Statistics Census of Melbourne having the most tram commuters (14%)
22 BANDT.COM.AU AUGUST 21 2009
“BUSES IN THE U.S. ARE
BEGINNING TO BE FIT-
TED WITH EXTERIOR
DIGITAL PANELS THAT
ALSO HAVE INBUILT GPS
SYSTEMS SO AS THEY
DRIVE DOWN CERTAIN
STREETS THEY STREAM
A REAL POSSIBILITY
PAUL MCBETH, GENERAL MANAGER
OF MARKETING, APN OUTDOOR
WITH NINE MILLION AUSTRALIANS TRAVELLING TO AND FROM WORK,
TARGETING COMMUTERS IS BECOMING MORE IMPORTANT
and Perth having the largest percentage of drivers and trams and 43% thought they were a “conven- were waiting for the bus they had the opportunity
at 87%. Travel by bus was also higher in Sydney, ient” way to find out new things. to press a button, which would start music playing,
Brisbane and Adelaide than the other cities (21%), In light of this, the fact internal panels of trains and perform a dance routine right there in the
and almost doubled that of people in Melbourne are not used for advertising appears to be a missed street,” he says.
who took the bus. opportunity for outdoor media companies. But “The routine would be recorded and, using a
The survey indicated that the time spent travel- there are many factors at play, according to touch screen, they could submit it for their chance
ling to work or study also increased during the June MediaCom’s Keenan. to become a contestant on the show.”
2008 to May 2009 period, compared to a year ear- “There are 12 styles of train which makes con- To promote The Biggest Loser Ten turned away
lier, with those spending one to two hours daily sistency for panel sizes very difficult and the from straight forward posters and opted for panels
increasing by 17% to 26%. The percentage of updating of ads would be made difficult as trains with reflective surfaces to give passer-bys the illu-
those travelling for more than two hours a day also operate nearly 24/7 with fewer stop periods (than sion that they had lost weight.
grew by 16% to comprise 8% of respondents. buses),” he says. “Vandalism is also more prevalent “When targeting commuters you can use media
Meanwhile, the number of people who spent on late-night transit.” in a more interesting way,” Eburne says.
between 10 to 19 minutes travelling each day
decreased by 9% to make up 13% of overall Creative opportunities Targeting
respondents. The high engagement levels of commuters are also Outdoor advertising, like all interruptive media, can
driving brands, agencies and outdoor operators to be a bit hit-and-miss with hundreds of thousands of
A welcome distraction be more creative when it comes to campaigns. people passing by certain sites each day. However,
The longer dwell-times of commuters, both in travel Paul McBeth, general manager of marketing at APN commuter-centric campaigns have the ability to tap
time and waiting time at train stations, bus and Outdoor, says unlike creative that is targeting a into specific mindsets and take advantage of
tram stops, or in traffic, has made consumers more general outdoor audience, campaigns targeting popular travel routes to ensure the right messages
willing to engage with commuter-targeted commuters using public transport specifically is reach the right people.
advertising and more likely to be impacted by it, more conducive to “storytelling”. Research conducted for Adshel by independent
comments Keenan. “Whereas the strength of outdoor generally is research and strategy agency The Seed, concluded
“The average train station waiting time is 22 driving brand awareness, cross-track advertising that work-bound commuters assume five main
minutes, so you have a captive audience that is and internal bus ads are more about having a con- mindsets: waking up, apathy and detachment from
looking for something to do,” he says. versation,” he explains. surroundings, rushed, in their own world (particular-
“Some of the Bluetooth and mobile advertising “You can spend time going into a detailed copy ly car commuters), and optimism about the day
that is available today is really effective because it advertisement, which has traditionally been the ahead. The research, presented in Adshel’s
allows people to stream video content to their role of print media, or some sort of interactive Essential Guide to Commuters, also revealed that
phones with advertising messages which keeps through mobile where you can ask people for a homebound commuters experience the following
them entertained.” response or to call a number.” psychological states; escapism, anticipation to see
Research conducted by APN Outdoor in its Out Max Eburne, general manager of sales at loved ones at home, rushed, thinking about dinner,
and About with Bus and Tram Commuters report in JCDecaux Australia, points to two campaigns for friends and fitness, and switching off and relaxing.
2008 supports the idea that commuters are open Channel Ten series So You Think You Can Dance A campaign for FMCG producer Sanitarium for its
to ads. It showed 54% of respondents read bus and and The Biggest Loser to illustrate the opportunity Up and Go breakfast drink, is an example of effec-
tram interior ads and 41% said there was an oppor- for interaction with commuters. tive mindset targeting, explains Joana Barros,
tunity on the bus or tram to “closely assess what “For So You Think You Can Dance, we installed national marketing manager at Adshel.
was advertised.” Meanwhile, almost half of respon- video cameras within our road-side advertising “Sanitarium specifically booked a work-bound
dents welcomed the distraction of ads inside buses sites in Sydney and Melbourne and while people commuter package, which saw posters strategically
24 BANDT.COM.AU AUGUST 21 2009
campaign can increase recall by about 40%.”
Eburne observes that using time-of-day and the
commuter mindset to target this group lends itself
to some product and categories over others, with
breakfast cereals being an obvious choice for work-
bound commuters, and ready-to-eat meals and TV
shows being relevant to those homebound.
“Mobile telecoms and devices like Apple’s iPod
are also obvious product categories for the entire
outdoor audience because they’re relevant to peo-
ple who are out and about,” he states.
And due to a large proportion of commuters
being young, educated and light consumers of tra-
ditional media, many traditional TV advertisers
such as FMCG brands, insurance companies and
banks are starting to use out-of-home more in their
media mix. Though the campaign message still
needs to be conducive to a commuter mindset,
“NRMA’s 'Unworry' campaign has done really
well in targeting work-bound commuters by appeal-
ing to their rushed mood state, and Volkswagen
designed a commuter-specific campaign for its
Tiguan called 'Latte or Bush' which appealed to
their sense of escapism,” she explains.
THE NUMBER OF COMMUTERS TRAVELLING TO WORK ON THE BUS HAS
INCREASED BY 13% IN THE 12 MONTHS TO MAY 2009 ACCORDING TO NIELSEN. Despite the targeting abilities of commuter media,
many platforms fall short of single-handedly
targeting those travelling to and from work.
placed where they would be seen on people’s way to missed their breakfast and are likely to pick up one Keenan suggests that News Limited’s commuter
work, and this made perfect sense because that’s of their products.” newspaper MX, which is currently distributed free
when people are getting ready for work, probably She adds: "Applying a skewing component to a every workday afternoon in Sydney, Melbourne and
Australia’s Number One in Out-Of-Home Digital media
Australia’s Number One Australia’s Number One Australia’s Number One Australia’s Number One
Managed network Wellbeing network Home Electronics network Lifestyle network
AUGUST 21 2009 BANDT.COM.AU 25
! MEANS OF TRAVEL
Forms of Transport by People 18+ who Commute June ‘08 to June ‘07 to % diff
to Work Study in 5 Cap Cities (Total 6.89M) May ‘09 May ‘08* YOY
Car (alone) 71 72.3 -2%
Car (shared/pooled) 13.7 12.7 8%
Bus 18 16 13%
Train 21.8 20.8 5%
Tram/Light Rail 4.7 4.4 7%
Taxi/Hired Car 1.5 1.6 -6%
Bicycle 4 3.6 11%
Motor Bike 2 2.1 -5%
Walking/Jogging 14.6 12.9 13%
Other form of Transport 1.5 1.7 -12%
Source: Nielsen Panorama Survey 4 2009 (Jun08-May09) / Results take into account respondents nominating more than one mode of travel
readership of almost 740,000, (Sydney averages The niche business model of Ambient Advertising’s
100,000 copies each day), MX allows advertisers to Street Vision, a digital, large-screen video advertis-
reach people as they head home from work in the ing network in Sydney’s city train stations which
city. stopped operating in 2007, is another example of a
“There are other free consumer publications out strong media proposition losing out to limited
there, such as Nine to Five, but MX is the only true budgets. While regarded by some as a great media
medium targeting commuters during the work platform that could engage with track-side con-
week,” says Samantha Bourke, national advertising sumers, critics argued that the lack of sound due to
director of MX. train noise was its main downfall.
She adds that 65% of its readers are aged The predominance of car commuters sees
between 18 and 39, and that 27% are “white-collar radio’s breakfast and drive-time slots as a main
professionals”. way of targeting those travelling to and from work.
Almost three quarters
The strong targeting ability of a publication According to research from the University of
(71%) of survey respon-
such as MX begs the question of why rival publish- Melbourne, over 78% of commuters in Melbourne
dents said a lone journey in
a car formed part of their ers have not attempted to cash in on this valuable drive to work, compared to 13.9% who use public
daily commute market. Fairfax took a stab at taking News head on transport, and 63% of Sydney’s commuters drive,
when it launched MX in 2001 with the work-bound compared to 21.2% who use public transport.
commuter newspaper in Melbourne, the Melbourne “The ability to align products with radio person-
Express. However it only lasted six months. alities gives the advertising an extra level of
Brisbane CBD hubs, is one of the only media that Far from being a sign that advertisers are lack- engagement and relevance to commuters, which
specifically targets commuters. ing investment in commuter media, media experts you don’t with metro lights or cross track adver-
“With transit media reaching both morning and argue that with a population of 20 million only so tising,” explains Keenan.
afternoon audiences, the advertising messages many media platforms can thrive in Australia. Brendan Cook, CEO of outdoor firm oOh! Media
tend to get a bit generic, whereas with the MX you “There is only so much money to go around and warns the number of stations makes it hard to
are solely targeting that homebound psychology of by having little niche publications just for public target a “mass car audience.” “Unless you are on
returning to the nest,” he says. transport or just for this and that, it’s difficult,” says every radio station you haven’t got a chance of
With a national circulation of 230,000 a day and one media owner who did not want to be named. reaching them all,” he says. “However, one billboard
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26 BANDT.COM.AU AUGUST 21 2009
“THE AVERAGE TRAIN
TIME IS 22 MINUTES,
SO YOU HAVE A
THAT IS LOOKING FOR
SOMETHING TO DO.”
NICK KEENAN, HEAD OF
people on their way to and from work,” he says.
Cook anticipates Australia is about three years
away from seeing any major developments in out-
door digital signage targeting commuters.
“In the next three years there will be major
changes in this area and day-part advertising will
become more mainstream," he says.
Brian Craighead, managing director of digital
out-of-home media provider Prime Digital Media,
argues cost is the main inhibitor to investment in
Technological innovation “Digital is more expensive than static and in
and increased creativity
some environments it's simply not appropriate,”
is leading to more
he says. “However, in premium locations where
engaging and interactive
outdoor media for the inventory is limited and impact is a challenge, digi-
travelling public. tal is becoming very attractive.”
But in the long run, advertisers should expect
to save money with digital out-of-home, with the
ability to repurpose digital creative quickly and be
has the opportunity to reach the entire road audi- be integrated more closely with other out-of- more discrete with media purchases.
ence.” home media. McBeth from APN, which currently has one
David Fish, strategy manager at Austereo, “I’m predicting that OOH and mobile will work large-format digital billboard site opposite
owners of the Today and Triple M networks, says closely in the future to reach the commuter Flinders St train station in Melbourne, claims
key listening times of breakfast and drive attract because you’ll be able to use OOH to spark consid- Australia will follow overseas digital OOH trends.
larger advertisers. eration and then convert that through mobile "Buses in the US are beginning to be fitted
“Big brands such as mobile phone companies, phone technology by downloading a video to find with exterior digital panels that also have inbuilt
grocery retailers or car insurance brands are also out more,” says Mindshare’s Mundell. GPS systems so as they drive down certain
the ones that can afford the higher ad rates during He adds: “NSW Rail Corp and the State streets they stream relevant ads," he says. "That's
these key listening times,” he says. Government have recently confirmed they are a real possibility here too."
going to install mobile phone antennas in all the The long-awaited launch of audience-measure-
The future train tunnels where you currently don’t have cov- ment tool for outdoor media, MOVE
Digital outdoor platforms and robust erage, which will allow a broader commuter audi- (Measurement of Outdoor Visibility in Exposure)
measurement systems, which are set to be ence to be reached.” by the Outdoor Media Association will give adver-
introduced in Australia later this year, are While digital billboards are still in their infan- tisers greater confidence that their outdoor cam-
expected to drive the future of commuter cy, investment in digital technology by media own- paigns are reaching the right audience.
advertising, as well as the entire outdoor ad sector. ers is expected to increase over the next few A robust measurement system may help to
Mobile phone QR (quick response) codes will years and bring with it “limitless” opportunities increase investment in outdoor, but the unique
become more mainstream as compatible handsets for advertisers, explains Eburne. quality of the commuter audience, being a group
and lower mobile data costs reduce barriers to “In particular, day-part advertising will allow that welcomes the distraction of advertising, will
entry for this technology, and Bluetooth will also brands to be confident that they are targeting remain as proof enough of its impact.
AUGUST 21 2009 BANDT.COM.AU 27