A new type of billboard has not only changed the urban landscape but the entire outdoor advertising industry as well. Drive through some of Johannesburg’s major intersections and you can’t help but notice the television-type screens that advertise anything from newspaper headlines to supermarket specials. The company behind it all is Alive Advertising, run by uncle-and-nephew team, Itz and Ari Arenstein.
Itz relates how the idea for the business first came about: “I saw one of these screens at a show at Nasrec and realised there was money in it. I wondered if we could turn it into an advertising medium, which it wasn’t being used for at that time.” The idea niggled and grew and one day, sitting at a friend’s radio fitment centre watching the traffic pass by, it became clear how the business could make money.
“It could work just like an ordinary billboard at high-traffic intersections, but with many added benefits,” he explains. The first stumbling block was cost. “A local manufacturer was making the screens but they were expensive,” he says, “So we went out and designed a sales package and sold the space on the first screen before we invested money in buying it.”
Without a product to show sales prospects and considering they were pioneering a new medium, it must have been quite a sales pitch. “We ended up with six clients and on the strength of those orders, purchased our first screen and put it up in Braamfontein,” recalls Itz.
This meant that the business covered its costs from day one. It’s a model they have maintained since the beginning; selling advertising space before making a capital investment in the screens.
“As the concept started to work, we looked around for new spots,” he continues, and therein lay one of the company’s biggest challenges. Alive Advertising pays a landlord for the space to erect the screen but it also needs permission from the local council to erect the screen in a particular location.
“And that is not easy, let me tell you,” says Itz, relating how it has taken seven years to get the necessary approval to erect the first screen in Pretoria. However, perseverance has paid off and today the company has 22 screens in centres around the country.
These screens are seen by 2,4 million people a day and here’s where Alive Advertising has a unique selling point. “Unlike a traditional billboard which is static, our billboards change all the time. One of our billboards has 17 spots, not just one, and the advert comes up 480 times a day,” says Itz.
So although the screens are expensive, the number of spots the company can sell on one particular screen has enabled them to keep the costs of advertising down. Clients pay approximately R10 500 per month for a spot on a screen, which has opened up the outdoor advertising market to small and medium businesses in a way that was previously impossible.
“In addition, they are guaranteed 480 slots a day every day for an entire month,” says Itz. He adds that production costs are also very low. Whereas a television advert production carries a hefty sum, Alive
Advertising will design an advert for a client at R2 000. “An advertising agency won’t even look at you for that price,” says Itz. A sophisticated technological back-end, designed in-house by the company, provides the flexibility to change an advert in the space of two hours.
This gives the ads an immediacy that is simply not possible in other outdoor media. “It’s opened the doors for companies to advertise in such a way that is a call to immediate action. They can advertise specials that they’re running or a newspaper can display new daily headlines,” he says, adding that flexibility is the name of the game.
“We have customised everything in order to offer clients what they need, when they need it.” It’s real-time, real value and real innovation. Enter the age of the advert that lives.