Launched Sept. 1, the 75 bus displays, dubbed Illuminated Kings, appear as standard bus advertisements by day; at dusk, the posters are lit up using LED light panels powered by the buses themselves.
The Kings are the first of their kind in the U.S. But TDI has been using the technology for two years in London, where TDI U.K. outfits all the city's double-decker buses.
"We tried it out first with Yellow Pages advertisements in London, and they were highly successful," said Jodi Yegelwel-Senese, TDI's exec VP-marketing. "Because of that, we decided to bring the displays to the U.S. and unveil them in the months when daylight hours become a little shorter."
The charter advertiser in TDI's effort is Gap Inc.'s Banana Republic. Its first 75 buses have hit the streets and will be up and running through yearend. Four executions have been created in-house by Banana Republic, with a different ad posted each month through December.
The third and fourth quarters of the year are traditional seasons for heavy retailer activity, when it becomes increasingly difficult to grab consumer attention. Banana Republic hopes that the posters, which are activated when drivers turn on bus headlights, will give it an edge in the crowded market.
"Gap Inc. is always seeking new and innovative media opportunities," said Susan Greenleaf, senior marketing manager at Banana Republic. "We negotiated these as an exclusive at launch because during this season there are so few new media exclusive vehicles. The posters are attractive because they're a 24-hour way to stick out. Especially in New York, this allows us to be impactful in a cluttered environment."
IMPACT DESPITE CLUTTER
Banana Republic's September/October focus is the "Fall Work" campaign, which centers on workplace casual wear for men and women. Through December, the "Holiday Gifting" ads will intensify with other seasonal heavy-ups by the company, including advertising in phone kiosks, bus shelters, urban backlits (above subway stations and in brand trains), and billboards. "Our relationship with TDI is to take advantage of new technology and innovations in a sophisticated and meaningful way," Ms. Greenleaf said.
Banana Republic likely will renew its campaign for other cities with TDI's Illuminated Kings. Neither company, however, would comment on spending for the campaign, though Ms. Yegelwel-Senese said the posters are "premium priced above the standard, king-size bus ads."
"These 12 foot exterior bus ads are part of TDI's evolutionary process in bringing new technology to our media," Ms. Yegelwel-Senese said. "Virtually all backlit advertising has been relegated to stationary media, but we take buses that are moving through the densest urban areas and pair them with illumination -- this makes for an unbeatable combination."
"I think it's a wonderful product," said Stephen Freitas, chief marketing officer at the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. "I've seen it in London for a couple of years now, and the posters are very impactful for nighttime viewing. When displays can be enhanced for advertisers both day and night -- particularly since the bus side advertising is a mobile medium -- it allows for a more dynamic message."
He added that the longer exposure time made possible by the Illuminated Kings also makes the higher price of the technology worthwhile. "The cost per impression is more affordable in this scenario."
EXPOSURE IN A VIBRANT WAY
Arguably, big metropolises such as New York don't need any more illuminated nighttime advertising. But Ms. Yegelwel-Senese said she sees the posters fitting in perfectly with the urban landscape. "New York is one of the densest centers in the world, in terms of audience and markets. Unless the consumer is there, there's no impact. The posters bring exposure to its target audience in a vibrant way."
OAAA's Mr. Freitas agreed. "Certainly the advertising may pale in comparison with certain parts of the city -- like Times Square -- but for the most part the lit-up posters will communicate a strong message," he said.
The next round of ads is planned for January. Several companies have expressed interest, but there are no confirmed buyers yet.