If Billboards are the ultimate symbol of old-economy advertising, then E*billboards are the next frontier of new-economy advertising.
E*billboards are Internet-enabled digital-video screens. These monitors have cropped up in nearly 6,000 locations, including lobby shops, gas pumps, convenience stores, and train stations. The products of Next Generation Network, based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, the screens run a two-and-a-half-minute loop of news reports, sports scores, and weather updates — commingled with advertisements.
"The challenge that advertisers face is to connect with people who are good at tuning stuff out," says Thomas Pugliese, 37, CEO of NGN. "We look for places to put our billboards that coincide with moments in the day when people have a few seconds to listen."
NGN claims its E*billboards generate 40 million impressions per week. But having a broad reach doesn't have to mean offering lowest-common-denominator information, Pugliese insists. "We look at geographic and demographic data to predict the audience in each market. Then we program E*billboards accordingly, on a screen-by-screen basis."
Why have E*billboards captured so much attention? "Say you're standing in line to buy a newspaper," Pugliese says. "You can look at our screen or look at the back of the head of the guy in front of you. It's not a tough call."
Visit Next Generation Network Inc. on the Web (www.ngn.com) .
A version of this article appeared in the June 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.