While several big American banks, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo, experimented with offering third-party advertising at their ATMs several years ago, interest in doing so has largely fizzled out.
Fleet Financial, which was purchased by Bank of America last year, halted third-party ads after a month-long pilot for online ticket broker Theatre.com in 2000. BofA ended such ads after a four-month pilot with AOL/Time Warner in 2001.
After running ATM adverts for movie studios and online food ordering services, among other businesses, Wells Fargo shifted its focus to marketing its own products and services.
Third-party ads "did not resonate" with customers, said Jonathan Velline, Wells Fargo's senior vice president of ATM Banking during a presentation at the 2002 Retail Delivery Conference and Expo. "They come to the ATM in a banking frame of mind. If you put bank messages in front of them, they are far more likely to respond."
Across the Pond, however, interest not only remains but appears to be growing.
The UK's Nationwide Building Society has run advertising campaigns on its ATMs for such high-profile companies as British Airways, United International Pictures and Nestle in the past few months.
"These are big brands, and we're validating their campaigns with accountable results," said Ana Stewart, managing director of i-design, the firm that designed the system for downloading ads to ATMs. The company also serves as the liaison between Nationwide and the agencies that book campaigns for advertisers.
"We're definitely on the map now. Agencies are building us into their budgets for the next 12 months."
Late last year i-design secured a £250,000 (U.S. $477,000) infusion of capital from investment firm Sigma Technology to help it grow its business.
Stewart said i-design expects to add advertising to "at least" two other ATM networks this year. According to earlier published reports, the Co-operative Bank contracted with i-design to assess the suitability of its network for ATM advertising.
The company's ATM:ad system comprises servers running on a Microsoft Windows-based operating system that uses an SQL database to manage ad campaigns. It sends proposed bookings to Nationwide, which then accepts or declines them. If Nationwide approves, it can view the actual advertisements as they will appear on ATMs. The scheduling of downloads to selected groups of ATMs is handled by i-design.
British Airways just booked its fifth ad campaign, which will appear on some 200 Nationwide ATMs in London Underground stations and at BP stations throughout this month.
'Innovative way of communicating'
According to a British Airways spokesperson, the airline finds ATMs "an innovative way of communicating with the consumer" and also likes the fact that ATM users are "engaged in the advertising throughout the transaction process."
Stewart said a typical ATM:ad campaign involves four different messages: a 10-second "attract'" sequence that plays prior to a customer inserting his or her card, a minimum 5-second sequence that appears during the transaction, a reinforcing message at the end of the transaction and a receipt printed with an advertisement.
According to the British Airways spokesperson, 44 percent of ATM users who remembered seeing its first campaign said they were more likely to consider BA for leisure travel -- the focus of the campaign -- as a result of seeing the ads.
The spots seem to perform especially well in Underground stations, the spokesperson said, likely because they reinforce the more traditional media BA purchases such as posters on the station walls. "The average London Underground transaction is around 70 pounds (U.S. $133 ), which fits in nicely with our current pricing," she added.
Stewart said ATMs yield far more demographic data than traditional "out of home" media such as billboards. Companies know they will reach young families by booking ATMs located at Asda stores, for instance.
Unlike those media, ATMs also offer "guaranteed" impressions, with those using the machines sure to see the adverts. Because of those factors, pricing for ATMs is somewhat higher than for most other out of home media.
"We feel for the amount time that the consumer engages with the advertising that it's a very cost-effective medium, especially when used as part of an integrated campaign," said the BA spokesperson.
While its first ATM ads were based on existing campaigns, BA has begun developing spots specifically for ATMs using lines such as "go abroad without going overdrawn." In its most recent campaign, the airline even developed messages targeted to specific locations using phrases such as "your nearest travel shop is ..."
"(British Airways) seem(s) to know exactly where they want the medium to go," Stewart said.
Nationwide has been running third-party ATM ads at non-branch locations and promoting its own products and services at branches, said Chris Shott, business development manager for Self Service Banking.
"It's important for banks to have the flexibility to put their own advertisements on ATMs," Stewart said. "They're not going to buy into (ATM advertising) otherwise."
Following the completion of a network overhaul, all of Nationwide's 2,350 machines will include advertising capabilities by the third quarter, Shott said.
Ideally, Stewart said, ATM hardware will include a Pentium processor, 64 megabytes of memory and a color screen. However, "we've managed to make this work on 20-year-old machines," she said.
Adding advertising to ATMs will become far simpler as more financial institutions migrate their ATMs to Windows-based operating systems and IP networks, Stewart said.
Indeed, PNC Bank has found it easier to provide advertising campaigns for the Wawa and Thorntons convenience store chains since it switched the machines at some of those locations to a Windows platform, said Shelly Chandler, PNC's vice president of ATM Banking. First Data Corp., which drives PNC's ATMs, uses a product called Content Manager to download ads to the ATMs, which piggyback on the stores' frame relay networks.
"I believe customer-focused, in-store advertising could really take off with this technology," said Chandler during a presentation on Windows-based ATMs at the recent ATM Industry Association conference in Miami.
Newer technology will also make it easier to link ATM advertising to banks' CRM systems and offer truly targeted campaigns, Stewart said.
"Putting the advertising on machines was a massive step," she said. "It will be a much smaller step to CRM."