AIIA 2: Outdoor Advertising Project

It was a Friday afternoon on the 18th of May when I took a stroll along the premier shopping district of Orchard Road in Singapore. I was hoping to beat the crowds that would descend upon this shopper’s paradise in torrential hordes in the evenings, and especially when the weekends roll along.

Unsurprisingly, the streets were still fairly busy, thronged mostly by working adults on the last legs of their lunch hour as well as insouciant students either still in their uniforms or sporting what ever fashions were in the season.

I began my trek through the Orchard Road stretch, starting my sojourn at Wheelock Place, which has become synonymous with the books megastore Borders in the minds of we Singaporeans.

Wheelock Place
Wheelock Place

However in recent years, Wheelock Place has been a favourite haunt of the shoppers with higher purchasing power, evidenced by the number of niche boutiques, restaurants and departmental stores with brands such as Nike, Apple, Marks & Spencers and Nokia eager to attach their name to a high-end mall. Approaching its entrance reveals how the stores have their names visibly displayed across its front face.

Wheelock Place Front
Wheelock Place Front Face

The recently refurbished Liat Towers, situated beside Wheelock Place, has capitalised on the popularity of Wheelock Place by housing several cafes and eateries along its stretch, such as Orange Julius and the ubiquitious Starbucks Coffee.

Liat Towers Stretch
Liat Towers stretch

The brilliant blue ad plastered across the front of the Liat Towers caught my eye; in the expectedly media-saturated morass of Orchard Road, it was certainly no mean feat. I strode down the stretch of Liat Towers to get a better view of the ad.

KrisFlyer Ad
KrisFlyer ad

The ad was promoting the KrisFlyer-American Express Gold and Platinum credit cards. With only the copy ‘The fastest way to earn KrisFlyer miles all year round’ and two images of the credit cards, it did little else to inform the viewer of what it meant.

Upon further introspection I realised that this was intentional – KrisFlyer is the frequent flyer programme for the renowned Singapore Airlines (SIA), known as one of the best in the world. Any frequent traveller would have heard of SIA, and how its reputation of quality service precedes itself. Hence this ad would target the more affluent viewer who would recognise the term ‘Krisflyer’ – which is certainly appropriate for this section of Orchard Road that is in such close proximity to the high-end Wheelock Place mall.

It appeals to the ‘discerning’ viewer, the one who is ‘in the know’, especially with such pertinent copy. By commanding such a large ad space, it is certainly quite impressive, even to a viewer like myself. With no frills, no apparent signs of hard-selling, the ad exudes an air of exclusivity.

I continued my way down Orchard Road towards Somerset, reaching the traffic junction that linked the HMV Heeren and Orchard Cineleisure, both shopping malls known for its streetwear and edgy fashion shops, being immensely popular with teenagers and young adults. The titular Heeren housed music giant HMV, arguably the largest music and DVD store in Orchard Road.

Orchard Cineleisure
Orchard Cineleisure (background)

The megascreen on HMV Heeren first caught my ear as it blared loud music. As I waited at the traffic light, my eyes were immediately drawn to the screen which was playing video clips of the latest singles from a band. The traffic junction being a busy one, I had more than enough time to view a few clips being played on the screen.

HMV Heeren megascreen
HMV Heeren megascreen

Before I knew it large crowds had gathered around me, and just like me, were waiting to cross the road. I looked across the street and saw similarly large crowds waiting to cross to the Cineleisure. Most of them were looking at the screen as well, passing the waiting time by viewing the music videos running on the screen.


Short clip of crowd crossing the street between Somerset and Cineleisure

The megascreen was definitely strategically placed to capture the attention of passersby, especially those waiting at the traffic junctions like me. Being a Friday afternoon, the crowds were relatively small compared to the evenings and the weekend, where several thousands of people would gather at the traffic junctions or walk by the megascreen during the course of the day.

By playing clips of music videos promoting different artistes, HMV was reaching out to the audiences of teenagers and young adults whose music tastes ran along to those artistes being promoted through the megascreen. With snazzy video and sound, the megascreen was the attention-grabber in that location, standing out from the other print ads in the same area.

After viewing a few clips of the latest music videos, I crossed the road towards Somerset MRT Station, along which I experienced congested human traffic – it seemed that more people were pouring out of the underground train station. Again, I waited at the traffic light to cross the road towards Orchard Emerald, and was assailed by a plethora of advertising images.

Orchard Emerald
Orchard Emerald – megascreen flanked by print ads

Similar to what I experienced at the traffic junction between HMV Heeren and the Cineleisure malls, the megascreen on the front face of the Orchard Emerald captured my attention the most. The two print ads – by Citizen and Lee Hwa Jewellery – were dull in comparison.

However, the main difference here was that the ads running on the megascreen were not music videos, but rather a variety. The malls in the vicinity – only about a 100-200 metres from HMV Heeren – such as the Emerald and Centrepoint, were generic shopping malls with no distinct features that characterised the Heeren and Cineleisure; perhaps this would explain the range of ads running on the megascreen, such as credit cards, travel destinations and product endorsements.

The proximity of the megascreen to the MRT station – barely 50 metres away – could attest to the variety of ads, since everyone and anyone uses public transport. Even car owners wanting the avoid the usual heavy traffic would resort to public transport, seeing how accessible Orchard Road is to any visitor.

I also noticed that very large crowds exiting the MRT station would be exposed to the megascreen, hence confirming its strategic placement. While waiting to cross the road, pedestrians would naturally be attracted to the video and sound of the megascreen, rather than look at the print ads.


Short clip of huge crowd crossing the road to Emerald and Somerset MRT station

The crowd numbers would definitely increase in the evenings and during the weekends, exposing the ads to thousands of people. I made my way to the MRT, eager to avoid the increasing throngs of shoppers heading to Orchard Road.

As the train shuttled towards home, I realised that the placement of the ads that caught my attention in Orchard Road was no accident – each were carefully planned and positioned in a manner that would be relevant to the crowd normally frequenting such areas in the shopping district. The megascreens were placed at locations where people would gather – such as traffic junctions – hence allowing enough time for television-medium ads to run. If they were placed somewhere else, they might not have received as much exposure.

The content was also important – music videos played at the Somerset/Emerald junction for example, might not be as effective seeing that HMV was quite a distance away from that junction. Similarly, if generic ads were played at HMV Heeren, it would not be informing the particular audience who would purchase the latest CD or DVD of the latest releases by music artistes.

Therefore, outdoor advertising is not just about kicking up a ruckus and bombarding the consumer with messages. Meticulous planning must be done to analyse the audience and location in order to tool appropriate content and select stragetic locations for the ad. This ensures that the ad receives maximum exposure to the correct audiences.

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May 20, 2007. advertising, cineleisure, HMV, orchard road, singapore. Leave a comment.