The hot topic on the streets of Sandton at the moment is EcoMobility, the system designed to remove congestion from the richest square mile in Africa. With billboards and posters lining the avenues motorists had a lot to look at when stuck in traffic jams. But now that they are potentially gone, how will this impact the format of outdoor advertising?
While EcoMobility is only currently in a test phase, the plan is for it to be permanently rolled out if it proves to be a success. But what impact could it have on OOH advertising if it is here to stay?
Jacques du Preez, managing director of Provantage, is optimistic about the system. “The place we play in is the public transportation space and since eco-mobility is all about that it’s perfect for us,” he says. He believes that it won’t have a massive impact on people not paying attention to adverts. “We won’t lose eyeballs; they’ll just shift to new forms. It’s how we mine those eyeballs now.” Du Preez used the Gautrain as an example. People are no longer looking at billboards along the highway; they are looking at posters in the stations and on the trains. They are also a captive audience as they cannot choose to leave the Gautrain once they are in the system.
Dave Roberts, CEO of Primedia Outdoor, believes that the advertising will change its form but the number of people looking at the adverts will not change. He also says that EcoMobility isn’t “a death knell for billboards and posters” as, even if people are walking, cycling or taking public transport, they will still see these adverts.
Lyn Jones, group marketing manager at Continental Outdoor Media, predicts that EcoMobility will have no real impact on OOH advertising. “Pedestrians and cyclists will still pass billboards. Public transport in Sandton won’t be any different than it is now.” But she does think that formats, even though they would still be roadside signage, may get smaller and street furniture could become more dominant. She also sees more digital interactive OOH formats arising, a trend which is already happening, but, “EcoMobility will cause it to explode”.
Brett Tucker, managing director of RelativMedia, says that, “None of the large format advertising has ever suffered as the engagement time when walking is the same as when driving. Engagement levels will also stay the same.” But in the cluttered environment that is Sandton, RelativMedia will be looking for other opportunities on key walkways. The sides of buildings are also options as he views them as an underused space.
However all of the experts agree that all of these plans are still a long way off. “EcoMobility is not a massive game changer at this stage as it will take a while to get the infrastructure built,” says Du Preez. Roberts says that since the programme right now is very short term it’s having no impact. Jones is of the opinion that Sandton only represents a fractional portion of OOH advertising in South Africa, so advertisers should not be too worried.
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