When was the last time you used a phone box?
Can’t remember? Yeah, neither can we. In fact, if you’re under about 25, you’ve probably never set foot in one (well, not to make a phone call)!
In theory it’s reassuring to know they are there for when your smartphone battery inevitably dies. But then your chances of knowing the number you need to call are slim to none – so basically, you’re stuffed. In London they’re pretty much only braved by tourists who are desperate enough to avoid roaming charges to endure the deeply unpleasant sensory assault.
So it’s fair to say that phone boxes aren’t used as frequently as they used to be. British Telecom has started to remove some of them, especially in less populated areas of the UK. However the city centre locations are still in frequent enough use for BT to hang on to them.
Nowadays they fulfil multiple functions including operating as WiFi hotspots, cash machines, and in some rural areas are being considered as parcel delivery/collection points.
They also offer an underrated and massively under-utilised advertising platform, especially for businesses looking to engage their local market. There are over 40,000 phone boxes available for advertising throughout the UK, making them one of the most prolific outdoor advertising opportunities. They are usually located in areas of dense population such as high streets, pedestrianised areas and arterial roads across the country.
The sheer number and geographical spread offer three great benefits to local advertisers:
1) Close proximity targeting
If you are a retailer, restaurant, café, bar, rest home, recruiter, a taxi firm, estate agent or gym, your immediate area is generally the source of your customers, revenue and prospective employees. Phone boxes offer the opportunity to advertise within close proximity of your location. This both puts your brand right in front of your customer and physically directs people to your location.
Some large advertisers have caught on to these little gems and are using them for local and directional advertising campaigns. Take McDonald’s as an example – chances are you have seen a promotion like this on a phone box (pictured) and it will be in close proximity to one of their restaurants. If you haven’t seen one, after reading this, you’ll notice them everywhere!
2) Access all areas
The UK is full of historic towns and cities where councils can have strict guidelines prohibiting various forms of outdoor media, such as billboard advertising. Phone boxes provide access to these locations and other hard-to-reach places like pedestrianised areas and shopping precincts.
3) Advertising Cost and availability
Advertisers often have a negative perception of phone box advertising due to the state of their interiors. This is good news for the canny advertiser, as it often leaves them available in prime locations and at peak times. This also makes phone box advertising the lowest cost on the roadside, stretching your valuable marketing budget further!
If you’re still thinking “but no-one uses phone boxes anymore”, remember this has no bearing on the number of people who walk and drive past them on a daily basis. The glass panels that face pedestrian footfall and passing vehicular traffic is where the undeniable value lies. The drop in usage for their intended function does not make them any less prominent as street furniture.
If you are looking to get your brand out onto the high street, more people through your doors and increase sales, this medium is possibly the best-kept secret in the world of outdoor advertising.
Now I’ve made you super-aware of phone boxes (you’re welcome, BT)… go and count how many you see, next time you’re outside!