Imagine an advertising medium that could account for at least 2bn ABC1 adult hits a year and, potentially, even identify precisely the individual it is targeting on each hit.
Tapping into UK cashpoints
FT.com site; Sep 09, 2002
Imagine an advertising medium that could account for at least 2bn ABC1 adult hits a year and, potentially, even identify precisely the individual it is targeting on each hit. Direct hits at that, since it could deliver the ad while a potential customer is physically withdrawing cash to spend, and hand them a receipt that could carry discounts, special offers or other advertising messages.
It could even tailor ads specifically to the customer's location - so any special offers could be redeemable in a shop right next to the customer. It's called an ATM network. And described as above, it seems a wonder that no one has ever exploited the monitor screens of Britain's 35,000 cashpoint machines as an advertising medium.
In part, it's down to technology. Until recently, there hasnt been a software package available that has been able to run and manage advertising campaigns across big and diverse ATM networks.
Another impediment, though, has been the reluctance of the network owners the banks and building societies - to countenance third-party ads.
But such resistance has changed in the past three years. Increasingly, network owners are having to reconcile an explosive growth in demand for ATMs, which now account for 75 per cent of all cash withdrawals, with the awkward fact that they are expensive to run - on average, about ý20,000 to install, and costly to maintain thereafter.
It's for this reason that banks and the aggressive new breed of independent ATM network owners are beating a trail to the offices of I-Design, a small Scottish software company in Newport-on-Tay.
I-Design, an 11-year-old software company specialising in ATM monitor display design, has spent the past three years refining a software package which, because it is platform independent, should solve most of the technical issues in distributing advertising across ATM networks.
The software offers ATM operators the chance to show an eight-second video short over the screen - the duration of a standard transaction. It also allows ATMs to display advertising images between transactions, and for advertising and branding to be printed on to receipts. Eventually, given the data available on cards, each user could be identified, and the ad message tailored accordingly - all without adding a second to the overall transaction time.
It can even judge the weather. One confectionery company asked I-Design if, when the temperature rises, ATM adverts for chocolate could change to ads for ice-cream. The answer is, they can.
Moreover, as an advertising medium, it is fully accountable. Campaign managers can know exactly how many people they have reached, along with when and where.
I-Design began life designing the graphical interfaces of ATMs. But increasingly, says Ana Stewart, sales director and co-founder, ATM operators wanted applications that allowed their ATMs to carry own-brand marketing. And as the operators increasingly looked for ways of earning revenues from ATMs, this evolved into demands to develop a platform for third-party advertising.
The first company to exploit the possibility was Nationwide, the mutual building society. Last year, it ran two pilot campaigns for third-party advertisers across part of its 2,000-strong ATM network. It is now planning a further series of third-party campaigns and, by the year end, aims to use the technology to provide own-brand marketing in all its in-branch terminals, following 'really positive' user feedback from the pilots.
As network operators wake up to the potential of ATM advertising, the hope now is that advertising agencies and brand managers will bite too. With this in mind, I-Design earlier this year appointed Jim Faulds as chairman, bringing on board perhaps Scotlands most successful advertising entrepreneur.
The prize, says Ralph Hasselgren, I-Design's managing director, is a relatively small share of the UK ad market - perhaps worth a total of ý50m a year - but a potentially huge fillip for I-Design, which currently turns over about ý600,000 a year.