Wall Street Journal coming soon to elevator near you

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The competition for reaching the at-work crowd has gotten a little sharper.

Office Media Network (OMN) announced July 20 that it was expanding its Wall Street Journal Office Network to include elevators in office buildings. The service debuted last year in lobbies and common areas of office buildings.

The network, which delivers Wall Street Journal content on flat-panel LCD screens, is currently in 150 office buildings nationwide with another 150 signed on, said Jim Harris, CEO of OMN. With added distribution on elevator screens, the network should be in "several hundred" office buildings by early next year, he said.

The network will initially be available in office buildings in major business hubs, such as Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C. "You'll eventually see it in every city," Harris said. "We're continuing to work with the best real estate companies in the best markets."

Tim Callahan, CEO of Callahan Capital Corp., a private real estate company that recently set up shop, said he's adopted the WSJ Office Network for five office buildings in Denver and will work closely with OMN as he expands his holdings. "As we acquire new buildings, we anticipate working with Jim to make OMN part of our network," said Callahan, who is the former CEO of Equity Office Properties Trust, one of the largest commercial real estate companies in the U.S.

OMN seems to be following the lead of Gannett Co.'s Captivate Network, an at-work digital network introduced in 1997 that is currently distributed on about 6,500 elevator screens nationwide. Captivate features content from CNN, Forbes, USA Today and The Washington Post, among other media outlets.

But Harris said the move was a result of listening to OMN's customers. "From our very first discussions with real estate companies there was interest in elevators to complement the lobby areas," he said.

A few days after OMN's announcement, Captivate said it was rolling out the Captivate Suburban Office Network, which will feature video on pedestal displays and wall-mounted screens in suburban office buildings.

Mike DiFranza, president-general manager of Captivate Network, who is also chairman of the Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau, said Captivate in the last several years has temporarily installed lobby screens in office buildings in Boston and Chicago but concluded after feedback from building managers that a "lobby execution" was better suited to suburban markets.

Both Harris and DiFranza downplayed any emerging rivalry and insisted that heightened competition would not cause their ad rates to fall.

"Captivate does a great job of delivering news and entertainment coverage, whereas the Journal is the gold standard for business coverage," Harris said. "They're a little different [than the WSJ Office Network] and have a different intent on who they're trying to serve."

DiFranza said advertisers would most likely consider both Captivate and the WSJ Office Network. "The more audience advertisers want to reach, the more they're going to buy" in a particular ad space, he said. "The marketplace will determine the [ad] rates."

In terms of reach, the WSJ Office Network will have to play catch-up. It now has 1.4 million viewers a week, while Captivate has 12 million viewers a week.

Rick Segal, CEO of ad agency HSR Business to Business, said the growth of at-work networks reflects larger—and accelerating—media trends.

"My general sense is all media companies need to look at the holistic view and have to place impressions in the widest variety of venues, whether it's print, online or the booming `place-based' category," he said. "Advertisers are looking for an `omni-conscious' presence."

Segal added: "Whether it's airports, elevators, hotels or lobbies, media companies and their advertisers have an opportunity to make brand impressions in venues where business decisions are being made or are being influenced."

Other media buyers said the moves would spur better creative.

"It's a weird dynamic in elevators," said Chris Philip, chief experience officer of b-to-b ad agency Doremus. "People stare at the elevator screen, but I don't think advertisers have yet learned how to break through."

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