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One of the things that I enjoy about my work is the opportunity to travel about the country. Not only do I get to visit a wide range of organizations but I get a window on the world of marketing outside of my day-to-day ‘getting on and doing it’. Today’s trip was visit to ‘the big smoke’… always a shock to the system given my usual working situation of dog snoring on the floor at my feet and a view over the Cotswold fields.

After I had got over my initial (habitual) reaction, on stepping into the London Underground, to people stopping right in front of me/pushing and shoving/general grubbiness of my surroundings/that funny smell [delete as applicable], I was struck by a massive change in the advertising. One of the best things about traveling on the Tube has to be the adverts. Whether we’re talking about those in The Metro, those inside the tube cars or those on the walls of the stations… one thing (I think) we do really well here in the UK is transport advertising. I spend a lot of time over in Paris and whilst ‘Le Metro’ manages to have WiFi, clean stations/cars and clearer signage than us, I can honestly say that our advertising is fantastic by comparison.

But today I got a shock… or rather I didn’t. Gone were the bright colours and catchy slogans. No more the jolly pictures of people enjoying their holidays or modeling the latest fashions. Nope. None of that. Tube advertising seems to have caught the content bug… and it’s really clever.

Everywhere I looked there were big adverts with stacks and stacks of text on them. Breaking the golden rule of adverts… but utterly responding to the change in marketing and how we respond to it.

You see, we’ve been talking about content and how it’s so important for building relationships and creating a dialogue with the consumer. But we’ve mostly been talking about that in terms of online and digital marketing. We’ve forgotten the other elements of the marketing toolbox.

The adverts were so impressive because they took this online theory into a world where people were standing biding their time. Where ‘engagement’ and ‘dialogue’ aren’t the first things that spring to mind (in fact, depending on the Tube stop, they could put fear into your heart…). The advertisers had recognized that, actually, most people in Tube stations don’t want to be ‘hit’ with a quick message… they’re standing around, waiting. They’ve got time to read and kill. They’re often alone, commuting, and they are happy to be involved in a process (rather like when they’re listening to their iPod or reading their book). In essence, they are primed to respond to an advert that takes them away from their current position on the Bakerloo line (with their face too close to an armpit to be comfortable).

Ok, they don’t want long prose but these adverts provide short, pithy sentences. Sentences placed at different heights up and down the advert – so that wherever their eye rests they get a statement that they can read and identify with. It’s utter genius and so bang on trend it hurts!

This is an important development for the world of marketing. It shows that social media and content marketing is more than just a fad. If the advertisers on the London Underground have cottoned on to the fact that this is how people are communicating then it proves that this approach is here to stay. No longer are we going to club commuters over the head and drag them to our business opportunities. No. We’re going to treat them like human beings and communicate with them – identify with their needs and interests. Whether on or offline it would seem that dialogue and content is here to stay.

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