Another key aspect Wilson cites as fundamental to the growth of this sector is the improvements in printing technology that have evolved over the years, making it easier to meet the requirements of these environments, especially in terms of turnaround times.
“The technology now exists for us to provide the right kinds of print for these locations, particularly with regard to speeds, as the latex printers we use are able to print off far more quickly than we could on the old machines,” he says.
Sam Cook, chief executive of Prismaflex, who has been working in the railway sector for over 20 years, agrees that quick turnaround times are essential if a printer wishes to capitalise on the rail advertising growth.
“In the past, you may have had 10 or 14 days to fulfil an order as advertising campaigns were booked up well in advance, but now, in part due to the recession, deals can be made very late in the day, so you may get an order through on Friday afternoon that needs to be installed by Sunday,” he reveals. “This is something that’s really changed over the past 10 years or so.”
The use of new technology has made such orders possible, with Cook noting the firm can now churn out around 110-130m2/hr at 360dpi, up from 20m2/hr in the past.
Another key issue that firms must consider when printing for railway environments are the strict safety protocols that are in place, especially since the tragic King’s Cross fire of 1987, with advertising in such locations requiring the use of flame-retardant materials.
“We’ve had to develop materials that are fireproof and won’t give off any toxins because they are hosted in such confined spaces,” explains Cook. “We have a fire-retardant substrate we developed ourselves that we use and have 23 people working in research and development on these areas so we can meet the demands of such unique environments.”
David Nicholas, managing director at Birmingham-based printer Foscos, which provides many of the posters seen on London Underground station platforms across the capital, explains that by using a special performance paper it can meet the safety requirements of these locations.
“This new paper eliminates wet poster installation using paper and brushes and is environmentally friendly, as the paper is recycled and UV inks are used instead of solvent-based inks,” he says.
Beyond this there are also specific requirements in individual railway stations, such as ensuring print is thick enough to stop light shining through and obscuring the creative, as Cohen from JCDecaux notes is the case for some displays at St Pancras station.
Despite all these issues and requirements on printers, the rise of train station advertising appears set to grow, especially since the Olympics, which helped make train station managers far more amenable to the idea of letting advertisers operate large-scale campaigns.
“The issue [for station managers] is not whether it can be done, but if commuters think the advertising is too much. So far, though, there’s been no negative feedback, particularly as the implementations look so good,” adds Cohen.
This sentiment is echoed by Prismaflex’s Cook, who believes the Games demonstrated that large, bright and engaging advertising campaigns throughout a station are seen by commuters as a far more enjoyable experience than blank walls.
“The Olympics have shown that dominance of a station does work, but you don’t need an Olympics to justify it. It works for any special launch or campaign. If you walk through a station and there’s just one advertiser, you’re going to remember that,” he says. “By capturing an audience across an entire journey you can really take advantage of the environment in which the advertising is placed to ensure maximum value.”
So, if you’re one of those battling their way across a station concourse hoping to get a seat for the journey home and bemoaning the increased ticket prices set to come your way, keep your chin up – you may be staring at a lucrative new market for your business.
RAIL ADVERTISING ESSENTIALS
The rail advertising market is booming, but tapping into this sector is not just a matter of running off some vinyl. Here is a quick guide to what you will need.
- A high-quality press The highest quality is expected as standard. The shift to larger-scale advertising sites brings with it larger exposure, so poor-quality print can be easily noticed and will not be accepted
- Speed of turnaround Printers in this sector have to deal with extremely fast turnarounds, so having the print speed, front-end and logistical capability to process and deliver orders quickly is essential
- Installation teams Increasingly, advertisers and site owners are expecting the printer to handle the installation – having an in-house team to install work is now a key part of the service
- Health and safety Not only should your installation teams be fully trained and accredited for work on railways and/or at height, the material printed on also needs to meet strict H&S criteria.