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What Is Escalator Branding, And Why Is It Becoming So Popular?

by Nigel Webster
on 27th August 2019

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When it comes to outdoor media – and any kind of advertising, more broadly – the most important goal is making an impression on your target audience. But the modern urban world is saturated with advertising, and it’s harder than ever for marketers, brands, and businesses to stand out from the crowd. Whether they manage this isn’t just dependent on their ad content, a lot of success lies in the medium they choose to work with, and recently, one type of media that’s been having great success has been escalator branding. 

With so many types of media out there, and so many different interpretations of industry phrases, it can be confusing to know what print suppliers are even talking about when they say ‘escalator branding’. We’ve put together this article to answer all of the questions you might have: what is escalator branding?  Why is it becoming such a popular form of outdoor advertising?  

What is escalator branding?

escalator branding at London Bridge Station

Escalator branding involves installing graphics over the body of the escalator to advertise a brand or business. This includes graphics on the front-facing panels of the steps of an escalator, and imagery for the glass bannisters too. As the escalator moves up or down, the steps sink and emerge to form a cohesive image when viewed face on. Along with bannister adverts, this can transform escalators into immersive, and experiential outdoor advertisements. 

Escalator branding has existed for several years, but recently has become more commonplace, and can be seen in many public areas including train stations and shopping malls. 

Where did escalator branding come from?

The idea to use physical installations as collateral for advertising dates back many years – we’ve been advertising on posters for centuries – but since the invention of large format digital printing in the early 1990s (and particularly inkjet technology, invented by HP and Canon), it’s been easier than ever to design, produce, and install large format graphics.  

This has resulted in outdoor and large format advertising becoming more affordable and accessible than ever, and as our Western economy has boomed, so has the scale of advertising – to the extent that now, almost every time we leave the house we’re exposed to multiple brands and adverts simultaneously. 

What this means is that it’s more important that brands and businesses stand out than ever before – being seen isn’t enough any more, you need to be noticed. Creating designs that capture the attention of passersby is paramount, and using the right medium is one of the most important elements of this. 

This is where escalator branding comes in. Escalators (as we know them today) were first designed in 1897, but only comparatively recently have their steps been used as advertising tools. This medium has been growing in popularity rapidly since the early 2000s, and is now recognised by brands as a valuable and unique avenue for advertising. 

What makes escalator branding unique?

Motion Icon escalator branding

The uniqueness of escalator branding is the main reason for its rapid growth in popularity, and there are a few things that contribute to this. As with any form of advertising, the most valuable qualities of any particular medium come down to how flexible and receptive it is to various creative concepts, and how effective it is at making an impression on potential clients or customers. Escalator branding achieves this in a few different ways:

Creative potential

While any advertisement in any format can be infinitely creative, one thing that sets escalator branding apart is the way its physical implementation opens itself up to unique possibilities when it comes to the actual design of the graphics themselves. What this essentially means is that the unique shape of escalator steps, and the fact they move, means all kinds of designs can be used that only work in this kind of installation. 

These can include graphics that play with the idea of ‘motion’ by capitalising on the rising or falling steps to create a kind of animation, or stop motion effect. You could also use the element of the ‘reveal’ caused by the steps appearing and sinking to gradually tell a story or reveal a message. 

Shareability

In our digitally-interconnected world, advertisers aren’t the only people sharing the word about a brand or business; members of the public are some of the most valuable advocates for any given campaign, through online social networking. Put simply, when people see a fantastic, unusual outdoor ad, there’s a good chance they’ll take a picture and share it to Instagram, Facebook, or another social platform. 

The result is a snowball effect when it comes to exposure, and means the potential visibility of campaign is extended fay beyond simply the people who physically see an installation. Escalator branding, particularly when it features a striking creative design that maximises on the format’s potential, is a natural talking point. It’s more likely than other formats, such as billboards, to get people photographing or filming it, and sharing it with their friends. 

Footfall

This will naturally depend on the location of the installation, but for the most part, where an escalator is installed as an alternative to a staircase, people will gravitate towards it. The footfall on escalators in busy public places is massive, and the dwell time (how long people are stood on it) is also valuable: the average time it takes someone to approach and get on an escalator is 60 seconds, with an average of 30 seconds spent riding it – leaving plenty of time to take in/consider an advert. 

Escalators are usually installed in places such as train stations, shopping malls, and busy public buildings, as they’re a tool with which to manage pedestrian traffic up and down stairs. They’re featured in places where people carry luggage (airports etc), and where it’s important to regulate footfall for safety – which usually means places where there are lots of people!

Why is escalator branding becoming so popular? 

Escalator branding from PressOn

Escalator branding is becoming more of a ‘go to’ form of outdoor advertising than ever before; this is largely due to the fact that with the advertising market so saturated, any means of creating something that hasn’t been done a million times before is rightly seen as a valuable opportunity. 

It’s also largely to do with context. Over the past few decades, for instance, contractors and construction companies have recognised the value in hoarding graphics, and these are now commonplace on building sites in both urban and rural locations. A similar phenomenon is taking place with escalator graphics – facilities managers are recognising the potential of escalators in public spaces, and are now offering them as valuable advertising opportunities. 

Final thoughts

As with any and all forms of advertising, the most important element in success lies in a combination of the type of media, and the creative design of the ad itself; escalator branding offers the perfect platform for a harmony between the two, and more and more businesses are recognising this. As time goes on, we expect to see an increasing number of these fantastic installations appearing, and we look forward to working on more of these projects!

Planning a project? Get in touch

PressOn work with Motion Icon, the UK’s leading experts in escalator step branding – To find out more about how PressOn can help you create a unique and effective set of escalator graphics, simply get in touch via our contact us page – we look forward to hearing from you!

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Written by
Nigel Webster Managing Director