• Sue Langlois

Not in My Condo, You Don't. Ads in Condos Not Always Welcome.

Updated: May 28, 2020

So many condos are putting digital noticeboards into their elevators these days that it’s starting to look odd to see a corkboard hanging on the wall instead. I said “starting to”, because there’s still a long way to go, but when I look back at how the new technology started, and where it’s at today, I’d estimate that the condo industry is about 65% up the learning curve when it comes to digital noticeboards in their elevator cabs. Not all of this curve is technology based either, though things like the internet connection and hardware still present challenges to some buildings. Some of the learning curve involves more of a marketing perspective (hey, your condo is a brand and that brand has value!) and still another is a more business-like approach to communication in a condo. On the business side of things, a topic that keeps arising is whether or not a condo should put advertising on its digital noticeboards. Some condo board directors get excited about the idea of getting local businesses to help foot the bill for the hardware, and initially, that might seem like a good idea. But in the long run, perhaps not.

While advertising can certainly help cover the cost of digital notice boards, it’s not the only way. Smart board directors will do an analysis that will involve asking some questions: Will residents be offended? How will ads affect the condo’s brand and ultimately re-sale value? What are the benefits of a condo population who actually know how to live life in a condo? What has the most impact? Are the displays for “fun”, to be thought of as an extra amenity to amuse residents, or are they for the important stuff that residents must know? Will notices get noticed if space is shared with advertisers? Years ago, when I first started the digital-display-in-elevators business, my background was all about TV and Radio ads, so I naturally contemplated advertisers as part of my business model. I met up with a friend of mine, told her what I was up to, and asked her for the name of her condo’s property manager. To which came the harsh reply, “Not in my condo, you don't!” I admit I was taken aback that my friend was not brimming with encouragement for me and my business venture. When I asked her why, she quite simply replied that advertising does not belong in a condo resident’s home. “As a resident, I would be so mad that I would deliberately not look at the screen. The lobby and elevator of a condo are the equivalent of the front porch and foyer of a house,” she said. “Would you plaster your front hallway with advertising?” Well, at the time I hadn’t really thought of it that way.

Research Led to a Practical Solution

So began the most important part of starting a business – market research. First off, my media-buyer contacts in the advertising world explained how CPM (cost per thousand impressions) works and how a condo network with unproven audience counts and demographics would be hard-pressed to compete with the likes of TV and online clicks. (That's a far bigger topic to cover here but suffice it to say I was convinced). Meanwhile I joined CCI-Toronto, took several of their courses, marveled at how much there was to know about life in a condo, and began to realize that my friend might be right. I joined ACMO and learned so much from property managers about the myriad of recurring condo issues that I knew she was right. By identifying the client market and knowing its needs, a different business model appeared: A service model that designs and schedules controlled notices that educate residents about all the things that they never bother to read about in their status certificate. All the things that collectively cost a condo corporation a ton of time and money when residents don’t know about them. Specially designed notices that capture attention, educate, make people laugh and most importantly change behaviour, to actually solve problems and positively impact the bottom line. Which in turn pays for the displays and notice service. Digital noticeboards in elevators are arguably the most powerful communication tool at a Board’s disposal. (Nearly everyone sees it twice a day, they see what the Board needs them to see, and they don’t need to take any action to see it – just standing there will do!) So it’s important to think carefully about the business of having them. If you need some help with that decision – here’s a great case study from one Board who left the commercials to the Super Bowl. Condo Case Study  What’s your experience?

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