The bus stop long has been inundated
with advertising of all kinds – so why not add commercials
on a video screen to the mix? Gardena-based Antex Electronics
Corp. has developed a technology to send advertising to bus
stop shelters via high-speed Internet connection, and it’s
about to launch a pilot test of the technology in West Covina.
Under the program, ads would be sent to a full-motion video
monitor built into custom bus shelters. The units would be
interactive, allowing users to input data that would find
its way into more targeted advertising. The prospect of tapping
a captive audience with highly targeted ads has the folks
who sell advertising space champing at the bit.
Clear Channel Outdoor, a division of media giant Clear Channel
Communications, Inc., is negotiating with Antex for potential
collaboration. Unlike static billboards, said Bill Hooper,
executive vice president of real estate and public affairs
at Clear Channel Outdoor, “McDonald’s could advertise
McMuffins in the morning and Big Macs in the afternoon.”
That means more advertising options - and more revenues.
“We’re constantly in pursuit of technologies that
would get us there,” he said. “If the day could
come where we could offer our advertisers the ability to change
content remotely, that would be a huge break-through in our
Antex provides hardware and software through a VCR-sized
product called Media Director that sells for $1,700 –
although they offered a discount to Clear Channel in exchange
for a cut of the advertising revenues. “They thought
about it for a minute and said, “Uh, no,””
said Dave Antrim, Antex’s director of sales. “There’s
a lot of money to be made if they can fill up the clock. They
can sell the clock, too, and charge higher fees to put in
your advertising at peak times.”
Devoted to product
Whether it gets a cut of the ad pie or not, Antex is banking
heavily on Media Director. A privately held company that makes
PC soundcards and satellite receivers, Antex had 2001 revenues
of $8 million. Revenues were projected to jump to $10 million
in 2002 and move higher in the following years, with Media
Director accounting for 50 percent of revenues within two
or three years.
The prototype going up in West Covina was built by Hawthorne-based
LNI Custom Manufacturing Inc. The “Lexus of bus shelters”,
as LNI Executive Account Manager Craig Watterson calls it,
has a steel enclosure for the Media Director box and a second
steel enclosure for a video monitor of some sort, whether
LCD or liquid plasma, with a rugged Plexiglas covering.
Antex is selling Media Director to LNI, which then builds
it into the bus shelter. LNI, after getting approval from
the municipality to erect the shelter, makes money by selling
shelters to companies that in turn sell the ad space. The
advertising is expected to be far more valuable than the static
shelters, which reach an anonymous drive-by audience. Antrim
said the companies plan to put as many as 100 shelters, which
could mean $ 170,000 for Antex.
Among the obstacles: limits to the availability of high-speed
Internet connections in some neighborhoods and the potential
for vandalism. Antrim said wireless transmitters could replace
landline Internet connections, or an upgraded CD-ROM could
be installed. Protecting against vandalism and other crimes
is another headache. Antex has proposed Web cams that would
not only act as a deterrent to crime, but provide demographic
information on who happens to be waiting at the bus shelters.
This, in turn, could allow for more targeted advertising.
Target audience changes
Up until now, bus shelter advertisements have been directed
at drive-by traffic. Media Director changes the parameters
to direct advertisements at users of public transportation.
Video can be tailored to a particular neighborhood, perhaps
pitching products and services of the businesses along the
same street as the shelter, or by more traditional national
advertisers targeting specific demographics.
Watterson said touch screens and interactive programming
add another dimension. He envisions riders paying their fares
at the shelters electronically and transit authorities using
global positioning system satellite feeds to alert riders
of a bus’s whereabouts.