PR Across the Pond


While I haven’t been in London enough to be legally considered a true British citizen, I HAVE been immersed in many aspects of culture across the pond. Believe me, I drink approximately three cups of tea each day, call potato chips “crisps” and French fries “chips,” and understand more British popular culture references than I ever did before. As the days pass, I’ve grown fond of all the charm in my daily Tube commute to the center city. It’s not the exhaust of the train, dragging along like its impatient rush-hour passengers or the cheerful lilt of their British accents that strikes a chord with me, but rather, the ever-changing, glowing advertisements and accompanying public relations strategies that line the walls of the platform. I’ll admit, as a Communications nerd with aspirations in the field of advertising and design, I pay close attention to the differences between product promotions and messaging in these masterpieces all across the city.

At first, I wondered why some of the ads were so engaging and filled with text, when they must be overlooked during the speedy transit journey. However, according to ExterionMedia, a leading British out-of- home advertising firm selling media spaces in public transportation, about 60% of Tube users notice when new ads appear and 65% feel that Tube advertising isn’t as intrusive as other methods. As the semester went on, I began to understand this concept more. There’s enough time to view the advertisements in between trains, and frankly, with their snarky humor, it’s become a game of noticing the Tube ads, to the point where my flat mates notify me when the advertisements change. Recently, we were excited when our local station started incorporating electronic billboards onto the main train platform.

In my experience back home in the United States, campaigns try to “break through the clutter” by screaming at their target audiences with a direct, highly product-focused style and high frequency on media platforms. Time and time again, I remember being in the middle of my favorite show when an unpleasant, irrelevant advertisement intrudes on my viewing experience. In complete contrast, I’ve noticed that British public relations, whether before a YouTube video or on my Facebook newsfeed, is witty, entertaining, and low product-focused, making it seem more natural and less invasive than other styles.

While in America, the annual football frenzy of the Super Bowl marks the biggest day of advertising in the year (and the most expensive spots), the UK takes a softer, more family-oriented approach. In early November, the country’s best supermarket chains release their long-awaited Christmas adverts and compete against one another for the most prestigious awards. In keeping with the jolly season, the city is currently glowing with Christmas lights throughout the streets (and has been since late October). To me, this holiday spirit just further evokes the thoughtfulness and emotional impact of the UK ads that I’ve encountered. As the semester comes to a close and I make my journey back home, I’ll remember what made the UK advertising so magical and join it with my knowledge of the American media landscape.

Source: rail-estate/london-underground-advertising
My Advertising and Marketing in Britain class notes.


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