ADVERTISING IN CONDOS - 3 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW.
Updated: Jun 8, 2020
Digital signage is a multi-billion dollar industry. It is expected to exceed $30 billion USD by 2025 and now that it is over 25 years old, it seems to be popping up everywhere, not least of which is in elevators in residential condominiums. Elevator screens in condos are arguably the most powerful communication tool at the disposal of busy property managers and Board Directors, yet for some properties, there looms the temptation to allow it to be used for advertising. Generally, this is not a good idea because advertising can alienate your audience, interfere with effective communication, and have a negative financial impact on your condo corporation’s bottom line.
In a day and age where many condo residents are putting notes in their mailboxes instructing letter carriers to stop delivering junk mail (ads!) it does not make much sense to install screens and then deliberately bombard residents with the very thing they are trying to get Canada Post to eliminate. The few dollars collected by the Board from an advertiser might seem like a great idea, but the flip side is that advertising may alienate an entire audience as they deliberately ignore that which annoys them. It is also worth noting that digital elevator screens in condos appeal in large part to realtors and real estate ads in particular can send a very mixed message to residents. More and more condo board directors are becoming aware of the benefits of building a strong community of residents, (security, cost-savings, dispute prevention) and advertising campaigns that constantly remind owners to sell can be at cross-purposes to the culture of community-building that boards are trying to create.
Effective communication has always been a big challenge in condo corporations, and the lack of good communication continues to be one of the top complaints at many Annual General Meetings (AGMs). A quick online search finds many digital marketing experts claiming that the average person sees 4,000 to 10,000 ads per day. Even at the low end, that’s a ton of messages that a board of directors needs to compete with in order to make sure their own condo-related notices get seen. Effective communication includes the stuff that bottom-lines are made of… measurable campaigns that can prove their value by lowering costs and/or changing behaviour to prevent common condo issues. Adding third party advertising to the mix is an unnecessary and often costly distraction. In an elevator, the undivided attention of nearly every resident (twice per day!) is achievable so why share it with third parties? The quick answer is revenue sharing and that leads to the final and arguably most important point… the possibly negative financial impact of allowing advertising on your property.
Condominiums are not-for-profit entities, so while board directors seeking ad revenue as part of the elevator notice board package are likely attempting to “offset the cost” of the screens, there are a few things to consider before doing so. Is the value of a water conservation notice campaign that can save thousands of litres of water a day (and thus a very real cost savings each and every month) undermined when it goes ignored or unnoticed? What is the financial benefit of educating residents on how to detect and react to water leaks vs. letting them know the price of a slice at a local pizzeria? Educating residents about rules, insurance, safety & security, emergency procedures; what financial savings are missed out on when essential notices are competing with advertising? The impact to property value should also be considered. It can be argued that digital notice boards plastered with ads can make a property look less than its best. Potential buyers touring a site are likely to be less impressed with advertising than with notices designed to keep them up-to-date with special projects and information about things directly affecting the property and their investment in it. Don’t forget insurance coverage too… what happens if a lawsuit associated with a third party advertiser names the condo corporation as well? All of these things should be carefully considered before a board signs on with any vendor dependent on ad-based revenue as a business model. At time of writing, the Covid-19 pandemic has hurt ad revenue for several media platforms and it could take a very long time to recover. Prudent condo boards may be wise to simply consider the cost of screen installation as a communication necessity and go from there to build out campaigns covering topics that will cover that cost in a year or two and then continue to reap the financial rewards of great communication for years afterward.
Ultimately, a condominium board of directors needs to decide what the ultimate goal of the condo corporation is. It may be to provide a digital elevator screen as an amenity to amuse residents and inform them of local deals and news. Or the goal could be to provide effective communication in order to cut costs, build community and increase property value. If the goal is indeed good communication, keep in mind that ad revenues don’t improve communication - digital screens dedicated to that purpose do.