TfL: exclusive Elizabeth line ad deals could help us build better OOH across network

Partners will get one-sixth of the entire advertising estate across the Elizabeth line, on train and in-station / TfL

Transport for London (TfL) has made the first big pitch to brands competing to become one of the first six sector-exclusive partners on the Elizabeth line, noting that its plan to forge deeper relationships with advertisers as part of the launch could help it experiment with more sophisticated digital propositions across its entire network.

Addressing marketers from Google, Specsavers, John Lewis, American Express, Virgin Atlantic, Tesco and others, TfL’s director for commercial development Graeme Craig told brands today (8 February) that getting involved in the line’s launch was a “once in a generation” opportunity.

As announced in December, the transport giant is on the hunt for six sector-specific partners to commit to a one-year contract and a minimum investment of £6.5m. Speaking to The Drum, Craig said TfL was “flexible” about what individual sectors were represented on the 41-stop line.

The line will be partly opened in December 2018, with the tender for brands opening on 14 February. The successful partners will be announced in autumn following a pitch process, with the obvious draw of TfL's approach being that there will no rivalry between competitor brands for eyeballs.

“What we want to do is build a deep relationship over the next 12 months and potentially longer than that with these advertisers, and this structure gives us the most opportunity to work in more long-term strategic way with brands,” Craig added.

In return, partners will get one-sixth of the entire advertising estate across the Elizabeth line, on train and in-station. This includes large and small format digital screens (some of which appear on-platform between the glass train entry doors), digital escalator ‘ribbons’ and illuminated classic panels. 10 new stations have been built as part of the project, all of them "designed with advertising in mind".

Separate to the Elizabeth Line construction, TfL has put plans in place to enable Wi-Fi and 4G across its network by 2019.

Craig is hoping that combining this tech with learnings from TfL's first sector-exclusive partners approach will in time help the wider transport network in its mission to evolve its offering from traditional billboards to more digital and interactive propositions that provide better audience engagement.

"We want to work with partners to understand things like accountability, metrics and how we might be able to work together with brands in order to move on from selling six to 48-sheets," he said.

He noted that TfL already knows from its existing network that the people who use it vary by time of day, day of week, week of year on so on, adding that the Elizabeth line and the investment that’s going into it meant there was an opportunity for his team to work with brands in "order to much more closely tailor campaigns" to be more reflective of real-time audiences.

"Digital infrastructure makes that more straightforward, as does the investment we’re putting into data. It's about having a long-term relationship with these brands that will enable us to trial and test this and see what more we could do," he continued.

He pointed out that these learnings would not only be applied to the Elizabeth line, but also have the potential to be rolled out across the entire infrastructure. Craig's vision for more sophisticated digital out of home solutions falls in line with the ambitions of Exterion (TfL's official OOH partner) to introduce personalised programmatic OOH to London's 155-year-old system.

On the design side, TfL has invested heavily in making each new platform on the line – which will run from Reading through to Shenfield – architecturally unique.

It has described the network as a “secret underworld of cathedral-like beauty” with stops specially designed to reflect the history of their surroundings; so, for instance, Farrington’s platform design nods to the area’s roots as a jewelry quarter.

The line is expected to be fully operational by December 2019.

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