Same-day Seattle snapshot: Hemp Fest fills one public park, the Tattoo Expo takes over the Ballet Hall (August 18). Omni-present cranes build the growing hometown of Amazon, grunge, and the 1962 World’s Fair.
What does vibrant Seattle say about billboards and out of home advertising? Four things jumped out at me. OOH:
- attracts new, hot brands like Amazon and Microsoft.
- is building a new category, promoting legal cannabis.
- has been promoting brands for more than a century
- supports public transit
Seattle-based Alaska Airlines, Amazon, and Microsoft (headquartered in nearby Redmond, WA) are among OOH’s top-100 brands; Amazon is No. 6.
These brands are producing top OOH campaigns/creative. Amazon Music’s latest ad campaign (“A Voice is All You Need”) features Ariana Grande, Kendrick Lamar, and other top artists. The multi-media campaign touts new releases via out of home ads, such as Grande in Times Square and select US cities.
The number of Amazon Music hours streamed worldwide on Alexa-enabled devices has doubled in the past six months compared to the same period last year, according to Amazon.
The OOH industry’s annual competition to honor creative — the OBIE Awards —recognized Amazon for its holiday gift guide ads in the New York subway. Alaska Airline won OBIE gold for ads for non-stops to Hawaii.
“Have you ever been to Seattle in winter?” asked the creative team at Wong Doody Crandall Wiener. “It’s like living in a chilled tube sock. With Alaska Airlines’ daily nonstops to four Hawaiian Islands, you can wake up in Seattle and be eating lunch on a tropical lanai.”
Cannabis an emerging category
Thirty states and the District of Columbia currently have laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form, led by Colorado and Washington State in 2012. The first retail shop in Washington State opened in mid-2014.
By 2016, cannabis was the fastest growing category in the Seattle market, which spans Olympia and Bellingham, says Korbe Palmer of Lamar Advertising Company. The cannabis category now generates nearly 8 percent of Lamar’s sales in the market, down slightly from 2017.
Advertising rules vary state to state. Billboard ads in Washington State, says Palmer, typically display cannabis-business names, logos, and directions.
Perhaps lesser known than Amazon or the Seahawks, Seattle also claims Carnation Evaporated Milk. “Few folks understood evaporation in 1899, but Carnation understood advertising,” says the Made in Seattle display at Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is a lead museum backer).
Classic billboards advertising milk “from contended cows” helped build the Carnation brand. When Nestle bought Carnation in the mid-1980s, it paid $3 billion.
OOH Supports Transit
“Advertising revenues are an important additional source of revenue that supports transit operations,” said King County Transit General Manager Bob Gannon in his ad-policy memo of April 17, 2018. A goal of local transit, Gannon says, is to maximize advertising revenue.
Bus ad in Seattle displays localized details
Like other transit systems, the authority that serves Seattle restricts copy to avoid controversy, vice, and profanity. These types of limits have been upheld in court; a federal appeals court just supported Washington, DC, Metro’s refusal to run a Christmas-themed ad from the Archdiocese (July 31, 2018).
The greater Seattle area led the nation in transit ridership growth in 2017.