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Australias growing commuter audience is one of the most engaged



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%)


                                                                                                                   “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
                                                                                                                    RELEVANT ADS....THAT'S
                                                                                                                    A REAL POSSIBILITY
                                                                                                                    HERE TOO."
                                                                                                                   PAUL MCBETH, GENERAL MANAGER
                                                                                                                   OF MARKETING, APN OUTDOOR


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


                                                                                                                 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,
                                                                                                                 warns Barros.
                                                                                                                     “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.

                                                                                                                 Managing waste
 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

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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                                                                                                                 “THE AVERAGE TRAIN
                                                                                                                  STATION WAITING
                                                                                                                  TIME IS 22 MINUTES,
                                                                                                                  SO YOU HAVE A
                                                                                                                  CAPTIVE AUDIENCE
                                                                                                                  THAT IS LOOKING FOR
                                                                                                                  SOMETHING TO DO.”
                                                                                                                 NICK KEENAN, HEAD OF
                                                                                                                 NON-BROADCAST, MEDIACOM

                                                                                                                 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
                                                                                                                 digital sites.
                                                                                   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

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