Reaching a captive audience

Meranda Watling

Digital billboads provide reading material in Akron bathrooms

Jesus Zarate, an employee at Mariachi Loco’s on Bucholzer Boulevard in Akron checks out the MediaCast system while in the bathroom. The new advertising medium is popping up in 17 locations all over Akron.

Credit: Andrew popik

Every day we are bombarded with advertising.

Reading the newspaper, watching television, browsing the Internet, driving down the road, going to the bathroom.

That’s right. Increasingly desperate to grab the attention of its audience, companies now have a new medium to advertise: “digital billboards” in the bathroom.

It’s a concept Akron-based MediaCast Advertising has taken to several Akron-area businesses, including Scorchers, Mariachi Loco’s and the Interbelt Nite Club.

“You’re dealing with a captive audience,” said Bill Hamilton, head of sales and marketing at MediaCast Advertising. “They can’t turn the page or change the channel.”

MediaCast Advertising has only been doing business since the start of the year, and it already has digital billboards in place in 17 locations, Hamilton said. They’re currently working to add more advertisers to the line-up.

The screen, which is very similar to a flat panel computer monitor, is placed above each urinal in men’s restrooms and by the sink and mirror in women’s restrooms.

Several students said they found the idea “weird.” Sophomore accounting major Drew Anderson said he thinks the idea would be weird at first but the novelty would wear off with time.

“At the beginning, you’d probably be like, ‘Hey, I just saw this in the bathroom,’” he said, “After a while it’d die down, but at least in the beginning, it would cause people to notice.”

Nick Beck, sophomore aeronautical studies major, said he thinks it’s a good idea that nobody has thought of before.

“It would be weird. I definitely don’t know if I could get used to it,” Beck said. “Whoever came up with it was pretty smart — They were thinking outside of the box.”

Hamilton said studies have shown this type of advertising to be 40 percent more effective than traditional forms of advertising. It’s great for the companies because they reach their target audience and they retain it more.

“It’s targeting 18-to-49 year olds with disposable income,” he said. “They’re already out to eat, so they have disposable income. It affords the companies more name recognition with the group.”

Hamilton said 98 percent of the response about the advertising has been favorable. But sophomore zoology major Allison Toth has mixed feelings about putting advertising in the bathroom.

“I think it’d be good for marketing,” she said. “But you almost need time to get away from it. It’s like the last place you aren’t bombarded.”

If you don’t want to see it, ignore it, sophomore nursing major Kaitlyn Ostheimer said.

“I think we are bombarded with a lot advertising,” she said. “But I just think if you don’t really want to pay attention to it, don’t.”

Toth doesn’t think she could avoid looking at it though.

“It’s kind of weird,” she said, “but it’d definitely make me look at it.”

Contact technology reporter Meranda Watling at [email protected].