Bus stop advertising at its best: Gary Lineker with Walkers Crisps

We’ve written before about the benefits of bus stop advertising. With over half the population regularly using buses, not only do your ads have massive reach, but they also grab the attention of audiences at points in their day – a quiet moment sitting down and on the look out for distractions.

But is there something unglamorous about this form of advertising compared to, say, large outdoor billboards? Well, nothing does more to dispel this idea than Walkers’ 2014 “Tweet to Eat” bus stop advertising campaign.

The concept was simple and fun; 3 bus stops in London were turned into crisp vending machines which used digital displays to create the illusion that Walkers’ living mascot Gary Lineker was stationed inside them, on hand to dispense free packets of Walkers. All audiences had to do to get a free pack was to tweet about the campaign.

Image of gary lineker and the walkers crisps bus stop advertising campaignImage by: http://www.omdemeablog.com/our-work/week-eight-walkers-tweet-to-eat/ 

Run by OMD UK, the campaign coincided with a reboot of the successful 2008 ‘Do Us A Flavour’ campaign, which crowd sourced new crisp flavours from the nation.

Building brand awareness with bus stop advertising

The problem with being an innovative and successful brand marketer is that it gives your competitors ideas. Sure, that’s a good problem to have, but it means that brand awareness becomes a continuous arms race to stay relevant. Fortunately, this is not an insoluble problem. Time and again, outdoor advertising comes to the rescue of brands seeking to get heard over the noise.

And so it was with the Tweet to Eat campaign. It only ran in a limited area for the summer months, but it was enough to grab the attention of the London public, kick-start a social media conversation, and send out a PR aftershock that took a localised campaign onto a national level.

Digital screen innovations

The heart of the campaign was brand ambassador Lineker’s always-charming presence; the screens created the illusion of the football legend waving at passersby, taking their photos and even pointing out when their bus arrived. He held up a handwritten note asking people to tweet about the ad. After they did so he would appear to receive a notification on his smartphone and pull a lever to dispense a free packet of crisps for the tweeter.

Linking outdoor to social media

OMD and Walkers’ understood that effective outdoor campaigns seek to magnify their impact by linking location-bound assets to social media platforms. This helped transform brand awareness into engagement, and engagement is a fantastic way to keep a brand front of mind and trigger sales activation.

The power of bus stop campaigns

Despite the high-tech nature of this campaign, Tweet to Eat shows us how powerful bus stop ads can be. The sites were chosen for a reason; they took advantage of the extended dwell time offered by bus stops to foster the necessary interactions upon which the campaign hinged. It helped that the sites were in central London locations with heavy footfall. But had the ads displayed on, say, free standing street kiosks, it would have been much harder to encourage audiences to hang around long enough to engage with the creatives, because that would mean taking time out of their busy days.

If you’re at a bus stop, you’re hanging around for a reason, and are more likely to use your free time to interact with an ad campaign. Of course, not all bus stop campaigns require this amount of engagement to be effective, but high-level interactions were essential to OMD’s strategy in this case.

Why even big brands need to stay relevant

Walkers’ are the UK’s best selling brand of crisps. This is in no small part due to their savvy use of marketing. That they have had one of the most personable and down to earth sporting personalities representing them for more than twenty years goes a long way to explaining their success. But even that alone is not a guaranteed strategy.

Walkers’ recently got mired in controversy when a selfie campaign that integrated user generated content into a bespoke video lead to pranksters tweeting pictures of infamous brits. The campaign was prematurely shut down. It goes to show that fostering user interactions can be a risky business. So it’s a good idea to learn from the rights and the wrongs of Walkers advertising strategy.

You may not have the budget to mount a campaign on the scale of Tweet to Eat, but there are more universal lessons that you can learn and apply to your outdoor campaigns; like using bus stop advertising to take advantage of extended dwell times to foster brand engagement and using creativity and humour to win the hearts and minds of a wider audience.

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  1. […] of NFC tech associated with your billboard can also help you gain engagement data. Walkers’ Tweet to Eat campaign required audiences to tweet to the popular crisp brand to dispense free crisp packets. Not […]

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