Gannett’s Captivate Network Expands

By: Katy Bachman

(Mediaweek) Alternative media, the smallest segment of the outdoor industry, is transforming itself from an assortment of oddball and novel ideas to a respectable new choice for advertisers. By focusing on building a network of place-based, out-of-home advertising, two companies, Captivate Network and Zoom Media, are hoping that advertisers will see their media as a real alternative to traditional media.

“This is the evolution of the outdoor media space, especially in the cities. It’s starting to flow into the mainstream of [advertising] choices,” said Diane Cimine, president of Cimine Enterprises, an out-of-home consulting firm.

Last week, Westford, Mass.-based Captivate, which was purchased in April by newspaper and TV-station owner Gannett Co. Inc., announced it plans to expand its network of TV screens in business elevators to eight new cities including Seattle; Minneapolis; Denver; Memphis, Tenn.; Washington, D.C.; Hartford, Conn.; Philadelphia; and Columbia, S.C.

“Most alternative media can’t provide national scale and very few can offer advertisers the ability to reach as many markets,” said Mike DiFranza, who founded Captivate in 1997 and serves as president and general manager. With the additional markets, Captivate will have a presence in 16 of the top 20 markets and double the number of screens from 4,700 to 10,400 by the end of the year.

“Alternative media is a big category, we wanted to make it look traditional, take this barely existing business, legitimize it, consolidate it, and clean it up. You don’t just want to be cool and fun — you want to be trusted,” said Dennis Roche, president of Zoom Media. Zoom, which offers advertisers four networks of targeted in-venue advertising in locations such as bars, fitness clubs and movie theaters, is also growing. The New York-based company recently signed a deal to partner with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation to supply poster-sized billboards in more than 100 of the most heavily trafficked comfort stations.

Last month, Zoom partnered with Town Sports International, a leading owner of fitness clubs in the northeast, to place billboards in 130 locations, increasing its fitness network to more than 400 locations in the top 25 markets. Earlier this year, Zoom partnered with Loews Cineplex Entertainment for 1,000 billboards in more than 100 theaters. The company also recently acquired Target Market Concepts, giving it the marketing rights to more than 500 entertainment and skating centers in the top 30 markets. “There wasn’t a company specializing in reaching people in preferred lifestyle environments,” said Roche.

Although alternative media are only a small percentage of the media mix and don’t have the critical mass to substitute for traditional media, advertisers are taking notice.

“We’re dealing with a more challenging consumer who has more choice, more control, more clutter and is more cynical,” said John Moore, senior vice president/group media director for Mullen, which has two campaigns running with Captivate for Whirlpool Gladiator Garage Works and XM Satellite Radio. “We wanted to reach an upscale male. They’re the most elusive target to reach in traditional media because they’re light consumers of mass media. [With Captivate] we have a captive audience in a clutter-free environment.”

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