"Kilroy was here"
"For a good time, call Jane"
"Beatles 4 ever"
These are probably typical of the messages you've seen scrawled on bathroom walls and stalls, along with nasty rhymes, gross drawings and weird invitations. But as perverted or disgusting as these messages may have been, their authors knew they had a captive audience for anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes or more.
Bathrooms in public places have long been used as the venue for a strange sport of messaging that ranges from an impromptu community bulletion board to an unregulated porn marketplace rivaling Craigslist. The cost to those advertisers? Free, other than the cost of some ink from a marker or pen.
In some places, the bathrooms have long carried targeted advertising to a targeted audience, such as the unisex bathrooms in music venues like famed The Bitter End in Greenwich Village or The Living Room on the Lower East Side. On those walls, the scrawled messaged are covered over by years of stickers and posters promoting bands that have played there.
In most public bathrooms, the walls have traditionally been a wild west of advertising. But that's been changing over the 15 years, as out-of-home advertising hits the john.
Advertisers have an array of choices to reach people as they stand or sit for a moment while they take care of business. Most major markets in the U.S. and abroad have companies that place advertising posters or cards in bathrooms -- over urinals or inside bathroom stall doors. Some of these businesses exhibit a sense of humor in the names they've chosen -- Johnny Advertising in Grand Rapids, Phoenix and St. Louis, Standing Room Only Indoor Media in Nashville, Whizz Advertsing, Everywhereyougo in Michigan and Ohio, or, in Washington DC, Crapitol City Advertising.
The media kits that these companies use to sell ads tell an interesting story of how we use public restrooms. One media sales kit talks about the "long dwell times" that average 55 seconds for men and 105 seconds for women, where they are "captive" to the ad messages that, research shows, get very high recall -- much higher than ads in magazines, newspapers or TV. They have research to support these claims.
The sales kit for All Over Media in Florida lists these reasons bathroom advertising works to "reach consumers on the go."
|Viewers like them.|
|You can saturate the market or hand pick your locations.|
|Your message will not be clicked past, tuned out or turned off.|
|People wait to see your ads and are in front of them for up to 3 minutes.|
|Target by location, lifestyle, gender, or zip code.|
|It’s cost effective. Other mediums can’t compare to our reach or retention for the same price.|
The Indoor Billboard Advertising Association cites studies that show:
|"Consumer attitudes toward restroom advertising were found to be very positive with as much as 98% of those surveyed indicating a favorable reaction."
> Arizona State University Study
|Retention of impressions generated by restroom advertising was found to be on average 40% stronger than impressions generated by other media.
> Rice University Study
"When restroom advertising viewers are shopping for a product or service, retention of that particular product or service advertised raises to an 85% rate."
And bathroom advertising goes beyond posters. WhizBizAds in Mission Viejo, CA installs video displays a above urinals that run a series of 5-second ads. Another company projects ads onto the mirror from behind. And ad space can be purchased on johhny cakes, the deodorant bars that sit at the bottom of many urinals. One company even sells a johnnycake that plays a message or jingle when it gets peed on.
Many of these ad companies actively seek new locations, and they explain how bathrooms can be turned into revenue generators.
After looking through some of their sales brochures, I'm thinking of putting ads in my downstairs bathroom at home. If I can get enough traffic coming through, it might cover the cost of our toilet paper.
I'll give it some more thought the next time I'm in there for a couple of minutes. With no ads up yet, there's not much else to do.