Washroom advertising: Skip to my 'Loo'

By Surina Sayal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In OOH News
Last updated : September 25, 2014 04:04 PM
Advertising in restrooms is just about taking off in India. Here's a look at how it's being done

Putting the 'P' in washroom promotions, brands are increasingly taking to the loos - for advertising purposes we mean! Internationally, restroom advertising has been able to garner a lot of attention due to its innovative ways. The trend is just beginning to take off in India, too.

Why is it happening? Firstly, the standard of washrooms has improved in India. Also, the audience in many top-end cinemas, coffee shops, multiplexes and clubs do not perceive the restroom in the conventional way anymore, but instead see it as a place to freshen up during a party, or use these to retouch their outfits and looks.

Just like other ambient media, washrooms offer a lot of choices. Advertisements can be strategically placed where they receive high volume viewing, such as over urinals, on the back of cubicle/stall doors, on the floors at the entrance of washrooms (floor stickers), on the mirrors (mirror stickers), beside hand dryers and in wash basins.

Are you ADtheLOO?

Gotcha! Impact Media is one such company creating catchy campaigns for brands in restrooms in India. The company, which also operates Cards4U, the free card company that is seen at many coffee shops and restaurants across the country, is now focusing on its washroom advertising division, aptly named ADtheLOO. The name was coined from 'Advertising at Loos' and sounds similar to 'At the Loo'.

The company arranged for permissions from bars and restaurants in Delhi and NCR, developed the panels and gathered a few advertisers. From April this year, it is seriously investing and pushing this medium in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

Standard A3 poster panels are placed and maintained by the company in these washrooms. "Our strength is innovation, so we could develop fragrance, sound, toilet paper branding and more. It's all about creating impact with the target group (TG)," says Noreen van Holstein, director and creative head, Gotcha! Impact Media.

The company has already worked with big companies such as Zee, HUL and Marico to create memorable advertising in washrooms.

For Marico's Hair & Care, ADtheLOO created and stuck floor, wall and wash basin stickers and panels in washrooms. Since it's a product that reduces hair fall, the company created stickers with the words 'You were here' and 'Leaving anything behind?' as if written in fallen hair. Fox History Channel, too, announced the property 'History Rocks' at washrooms in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

ADtheLOO had also done another campaign for Marico's Silk n' Shine that was targeted towards women, so it was put only in the women's loo's on the wall/door, in such a way that when a woman sits on the commode, she faces the ad. Now since the product was a hair detangler, the agency had paper simulating hair in strips that encouraged people to use silk and shine. Women could braid the hair in different styles and cut them, etc. all contributing to making it very memorable.

Other brands showing interest in washroom advertising with ADtheLOO include Sony BMG and a lifestyle magazine.

Not comparing itself with conventional media, ADtheLOO, which is being marketed aggressively for now, will eventually sell a regular panel for Rs 4,500 per washroom per month in bars and restaurants.

ADtheLOO is currently available in approximately 80+ high-end washrooms in Delhi and NCR, 40+ in Mumbai, 50+ in Bengaluru and 30+ in Kolkata in bars and restaurants such as Headquarters, Cafe Royal, Crepe Station, Candies, Flavours and Kylin. This translates to a total of 200+ high-end washrooms in India. In addition, the company can provide washroom space in Cafe Coffee Day outlets, cinemas, malls and multiplexes.

'Sink'ing in

Does it really work? International studies show that approximately 30 per cent of regular restaurant and cafe visitors will visit the washroom, while 60 per cent in fine dine and 70-80 per cent in bars and cinemas make a quick stop here. Clubbers visit the washrooms about 2.9 times during an average evening at a nightclub. Also, on an average, a woman spends 105 seconds and a man, 55 seconds in the washroom, so there is plenty of time and undivided attention to take in information.

International surveys also show that brand recall and positive brand association are very high with this type of advertising. Washroom advertisements allow captive media because here one can't switch off, flick a page, drive past or change the channel.

Abroad, many washroom posters often come with attached tear off slips, little business card-sized creatives that can be easily retained in the consumer's wallet. Many of these promise promotional discounts, making it worthwhile for its collector to keep hold of. These slips have proven to generate calls to action, website visits, phone enquiries and sales. In India, no brand has tried such a promotion yet.

While brands have started using the medium, many are still sceptical. Van Holstein tells afaqs!, "Washroom advertising is only slowly picking up in India. When starting in 2005, the washrooms at most of the bars and restaurants were not up to standard. That has improved fast - now the perception of washrooms has to follow. Loos are not dirty, but a place to freshen up."

About innovation, she adds, "I feel that marketers are not very open to new concepts, maybe scared to go wrong and afraid to be whistled back by superiors as Indian organisations are in general very top down. However, I hope that this is changing as by taking innovative routes, a brand manager can also score high."

Why brands should com(mod)e over

The advantages are many. Unlike conventional outdoor advertising, washroom advertisements command long dwell-time and unavoidable positioning, coupled with undivided attention for the duration of washroom use. These are uncluttered environments with minimal distractions and are also an ideal medium for gender targeted advertising, to convey more intimate messages.

For example, at the end of June, ADtheLOO will carry out a promotion for Kotex Slimz in 95 Café Coffee Day washrooms in Delhi, Pune and Kolkata, which will consist of sampling of sanitary napkins and branding.

Last year, Ogilvy Landscapes introduced the magic mirror technology in women's washrooms for Lux, where the mirror worked on a sensory technology. If seen from far, the entire mirror surface displayed the Lux ad, but once one came close, the mirror sensed a person, and the ad partially disappeared, turning into a normal mirror. Zapak, to target its male audience, also used men's washrooms where the creative 'Easy Downloads' was placed on top of urinals.

Another Indian example is that of Zee Studio's premiere of the film 'Kill Bill', where floor stickers were created that resembled a pool of blood. These were stuck under washroom stalls to make it look like blood coming out from under the stalls, thus attracting attention. When a person went close to see it, the message on a yellow patch read 'Kill Bill. 26th March, 11 pm. Zee Studio'.

An international ad for ESPN Brasil went as far as creating a football ground inside men's urinals, with a naphthalene ball replacing a football, and the 'aim' was to goal it with their skills! The copy for the ad read 'Soccer is good everywhere, but it is much better on ESPN channels'. In 2008, car company Mini devised a unique guerrilla marketing strategy to grab the attention of consumers using the urinals. Small skill cones were glued inside the urinals, setting up a 'Test Your Handling Skills' competition for all users to go around these cones.

In Japan, Georgia Max Coffee created Ski Jump Toilets, where the entire inner surface of toilets at ski resorts were wrapped in stickers in such a way that the person sitting on the toilet would feel like he's a ski jumper on the top of a ramp! The toilet paper holder carried the only brand messaging in the cubicle, reading: 'Seriously kick-ass, intensely sweet, for the real coffee, super zinging unstoppable Max! Taste-explosion!'.

The message also featured the URL, www.maxcoffee.jp, where visitors could view videos of extreme sports as well as sign up to the Max community.

While such radical washroom advertising still seems a few years away in India, with the amount of word-of-mouth generated by small innovations too, it seems that washroom advertising is definitely not money down the toilet.

First Published : September 25, 2014 04:04 PM
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