Interactive Outdoor Ads Bring Yell.com’s Virtual Biz Listings to Life

UK local search engine Yell.com is turning the virtual into the tangible through a new interactive outdoor effort complemented by online, TV and theater ad components. The unique campaign, developed by independent agency AKQA, takes yellow pages search to the streets, allowing commuters to find local businesses through interactive touch-screens in bus shelters and GPS-enabled ads on traveling buses.

The goal of the branding initiative is not only to spur usage of Yell.com’s online local search listings service, but to alter consumer perception of the brand. “Many people associate Yell.com with the print yellow pages,” Barbara Newman, Yell.com’s head of communications and brand development, told ClickZ. “We want to differentiate Yell.com from the print product.”

According to Newman, AKQA has handled Yell.com’s online business for the past three years; and the advertiser handed its multimedia campaign business to the independent agency in May.

Over the past few days, bus-goers throughout the UK will have seen a new addition to the standard bus shelter posters they’re used to encountering while waiting to catch a ride. A series of interactive screens featuring maps and an interactive panel have been installed in 20 UK locales in the hopes of demonstrating the local relevancy of Yell.com’s listings in a hands-on manner. The ads, which employ technology from outdoor ad firm JCDecaux, are pre-populated with searchable information on area shops, cafes and pubs, including maps and directions.

Even those eschewing public transportation can catch a glimpse of GPS-enabled ads currently being placed on the sides of 25 Central London buses. As the bright red buses cart riders to and fro, messages will change based on their geographic location, as tracked by the global positioning system. For instance, a bus traveling along shopping-centric Oxford Street might mention department stores, or a bus in Charing Cross might remind people they can search Yell.com for tapas restaurants nearby. Viacom is providing the technology behind the morphing bus ads.

“It’s more about fine-tuning the messages so they are relevant to consumers,” said Newman.

The multi-million quid “Results for Real Life” campaign is also hitting travelers with video ads in high-traffic train stations across the country including King’s Cross, Edinburgh Waverly and Manchester Piccadilly.

AKQA planned the online portion of the campaign to reach both general and niche audiences. Video banner ads presenting everyday-life experiences, like eating lunch in the office, are aimed at broad audiences on sites including Lycos and AOL. Other interactive banners placed on transportation-oriented sites such as UK rail site TheTrainLine display video footage and offer interactive maps and information on lodging. Similar interactive ads on official league football sites provide details helpful to fans planning trips to away-games, such as information on campsites and — in good humor — hospitals.

The online ads, noted Newman, are targeted to reach people during the day when at-work Web usage is heavy. The interactive bus shelter ads also change according to the time: shops, cafes and health clubs are highlighted during the day, while nighttime brings information about hotels, restaurants and watering holes.

Complementary ad elements include TV spots and movie theater ads set to run in September and October.

The campaign is set to end in March; but the effort may continue beyond that point, depending on how much consumer perception shifts in Yell.com’s favor, said Newman.

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