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News & Events

Digital Data Gives Billboard Owners More Reason to ‘Love a Good Traffic Jam’

NYC Traffic Jam
With the average one-way trip for commuters closing in on a half-hour, outdoor advertising companies and radio stations are finding new ways to exploit old advertising models.
David Butow/Corbis, via Getty Images

The increasingly lengthy commute isn’t just a traffic jam. It’s a captive audience for advertisers.

The average one-way trip for commuters in the United States in 2017 was 26.9 minutes, according to the Census Bureau. That was up from 26.6 minutes in 2016 and added two and a half hours to the average time commuting over the course of the year. So even in this age of Facebook, Google, Netflix and Amazon, the companies selling seemingly old-fashioned ad space like billboards have noticed the slowing crawl.

“We love a good traffic jam,” said John Miller, vice president of sales and sales operations for Lamar Advertising in Baton Rouge, La. “We are all about eyeballs on billboards, and the increased amount of traffic is helping us.”

Lamar has 175,000 billboards throughout the United States, Mr. Miller said, adding that slower traffic had helped the company’s data collection program determine who was looking at the board and for how long. Using anonymous data from mobile devices and apps, Lamar has figured out how fast cars are passing by, how much “dwell time” drivers spend paying attention to billboards, what the demographics of the drivers are, and even where they live, travel and shop.

Roughly three years ago, Clear Channel Outdoor started its own data collection service, Radar. Using global positioning data from mobile apps that require mapping — navigation, dating, shopping and restaurant ads — the service blends third-party demographic data with information about people passing billboards to determine not only where commuters will spend, but how.

“Now we’re starting to understand what mobile devices we saw exposed to our billboards, and we look back in time and say, ‘Where else have we seen those devices?’” said Dan Levi, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Clear Channel Outdoor. “In the case of businesses trying to get people into Target, we say, ‘What are the locations that are the most efficient in getting people whose devices we’ve seen in Target?’”

He noted that a recent analysis of fast-food customers in Southern California had found a strong (and perhaps counterintuitive) correlation with their going to the gym, largely because commuting whittled away time for sit-down meals and other forms of exercise. It also showed that billboards for gyms worked better when placed near a commuter’s workplace than near his or her home.

Mr. Miller said that data could also help digital billboards, which make up 2 percent of Lamar’s billboard inventory, change to meet an advertiser’s needs at specific times of the day. That could mean a movie studio’s billboard mocking traffic congestion at the height of rush hour, a Dunkin’ billboard changing from coffee in the morning to sandwiches at night, or sequential billboards telling a story.

“Smart brands strategically choose their placements based on a deep understanding of location and audience flow,” said Jeremy Male, chief executive officer of Outfront Media. “Then they match the messaging to the environment. This means creatively impactful messaging that highlights one key message, easily digestible with a strong call to action.”

If advertisers can’t catch commuters’ eyes with billboards, they are also trying to reach them through radio.

For instance, iHeartMedia — which owns Clear Channel Outdoor — has spent the last three years looking at listener behavior on both its radio stations and its app. Its research has produced data that iHeartMedia now sells to advertisers along with demographic information and specific ad time.

However, Robert Pittman, chairman and chief executive officer of iHeartMedia, said commuters were so bombarded with information that advertisers might get them to want a product or service in the moment but not get them to remember once they’re out of their cars.

Mr. Pittman said introducing a Taco Bell breakfast menu to commuters when they’re hungry, suggesting they drink Bacardi rum when they get home or pitching a car dealership while they’re stuck in their clunker put those advertisers foremost in a commuter’s mind when they’re most susceptible to persuasion.

When 20th Century Fox was preparing to release the Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” this year, iHeartRadio stations used peak commute times to air interviews about the rock band, Mr. Pittman said. On Nov. 1, a day before the film’s release, different versions of the six-minute title song played across all 650 iHeartRadio stations and sites.

“The longer the commute and the more time they’re in the car, the more they’re looking to enjoy the experience in the car or to make it at least more tolerable,” Mr. Pittman said. “We really try to make the programming that way, and we’re able to bring our advertising partners into it as well.”

Commuters using public transportation are also a coveted audience, especially in cities like New York (where 56 percent of commuters used public transportation in 2017), Boston (35 percent), San Francisco (35 percent), Washington (33 percent) and Chicago (28 percent).

The Manhattan advertising technology company Intersection works with transit agencies in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia to place interactive ads, Wi-Fi hubs and video displays in and around bus stops, train stations and airports. Dafna Sarnoff, Intersection’s chief marketing officer, said partnerships with Foursquare on navigation and with companies like the ice cream maker Blue Bunny on station takeovers (like its pop-up ice cream shop in a Chicago subway station this year) had become essential to holding commuters’ attention.

“I’ve seen some amazing ads on my 2 train going back in the morning and coming back in the evening,” Ms. Sarnoff said. “In this market, I’ve seen advertisers really raise their game, and people’s expectations of what people are going to see when they go into the subway are high.”

Outfront Media is rolling out 50,000 digital video boards at subway and rail stations in New York, the Bay Area, Washington and Boston.

“Brands like Casper and Seamless have becomes household names by sharing their brand stories with subway riders,” Mr. Male, Outfront’s chief executive, said. “Smart brands like Spotify, StreetEasy and WeWork leverage consumers’ predictable travel paths, frequency and time spent, and in-the-moment-in-time mentality to drive app usage, sales and site visits.”

The original article appeared in The New York Times.

Jan 23, 2019

Lamar Advertising Company Prices Private Offering of an Additional $250 Million of 5 3/4% Senior Notes due 2026

Lamar Advertising Company (Nasdaq: LAMR) announced today that its wholly owned subsidiary, Lamar Media Corp (“Lamar Media”) has agreed to sell $250 million of additional 5 3/4% Senior Notes due 2026 (the “Notes”) through an institutional private placement.

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Jan 23, 2019

Lamar Advertising Company Announces Proposed Private Offering of an Additional $250 Million of 5 3/4% Senior Notes due 2026

Lamar Advertising Company (Nasdaq: LAMR) announced today that it is seeking to raise approximately $250 million through an institutional private placement of additional 5 3/4% Senior Notes due 2026 (the “Notes”) by its wholly owned subsidiary, Lamar Media Corp (“Lamar Media”).

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