Synergy Mutual Funds of Toronto has joined a small group of fund companies which have recently begun using a novel new medium for advertising - television screens in elevators.

The other two fund companies, Manulife Financial of Toronto and Trimark Investment Management, which was purchased by AIM Funds Management of Toronto, began using the medium in the last year, according to Elevator News Network of Toronto, which installs video screens in elevators and arranges the programming to run on the screens. Manulife and Trimark declined to confirm that they were advertising in elevators.

Advertising in elevators makes sense for fund companies, according to the two dominant players in the elevator advertising marketplace - The Elevator News Network and Captivate.com Network of Westford, Mass.

The overwhelming majority of big office building tenants are employed and tend to be managers, owners, professionals, executives and other affluent business people, according to Elevator News Network.

Captivate.com Network found that most of the tenants in large office buildings it surveyed (40 percent of those in which it has contracts to provide video screens) were financial firms, banks, insurance companies, money managers and law firms. Elevator riders include senior partners and associates of these firms- exactly the people that are most difficult for companies to reach during the business day, the company said. Captivate.com found that the average annual income of elevator riders is $91,000.

An average of 250 individuals will ride in each elevator of the Canadian office buildings in which Elevator News Network has installed screens, according to the company. In its U.S. buildings, the figures are much higher. Also, each rider makes an average of 5.5 trips per day, and spends an average of 44 seconds in the elevator on each trip. That means a total of 81 minutes of elevator travel per person, per month, said the Elevator Network. And those numbers do not include daily visitors to a building.

"The power is in the volume of the people and the demographics," said Nancy Jackson, vice president of marketing at Captivate.com Network.

"The media world is changing," said Bill Wreaks, vice president of e-business development at Doremus, an advertising agency in New York. Companies are looking for innovative ways to capture consumers during the day and impart their messages, he said.

Both Elevator News Network and Captivate.com Network make long-term licensing agreements with real estate management companies to offer individual TV-type, high definition video screens and programming. The screens are installed in each elevator cab in high-traffic office buildings. The video screens, working off an Internet server at the company's headquarters, run continuous video-only Internet-based news feeds, as well as local weather and traffic updates and sports results. The video runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Up to 70 percent of the video screens (the top portion) carry changing news and other time-sensitive messages. The bottom one-third of the screens are available for advertisers to display their messages in either 10-second or 12-second spots.

Longer spots, exclusive advertising rights or special sponsorship arrangements can be negotiated with both companies.

While the news portion of these screens are static words that change every few seconds, the advertising section can include everything from animation to full motion ads.

"With motion, your eye naturally falls to the motion on the bottom of the screen," said Ed Voltan, vice president of sales and marketing for Elevator News Network. The upper and lower portions of the screens are programmed to prevent them changing at the same time.

Although the video could be accompanied by sound, research has shown that people do not want sound, said Jackson of Captivate.com Network. Research has also shown that people like the ads as long as they are not alone on the video screen.

"Customers don't like full-page ads" she said.

Advertisers can opt to have a series of banner ads like those that frequently run on Internet websites displayed in sequence, a moving message throughout the entire advertising spot, or innovative new ads, said Voltan of Elevator News Network.

Both Elevator News Network and Captivate.com Network have staffs that will work with advertisers to create advertising campaigns expressly for the new medium. Or they can use an existing advertising campaign and adapt it for video broadcast.

A standard single 12-second spot, which would include four banner ads shown in sequence, would cost $12 to $25, said Voltan of Elevator News Network. Jackson of Captivate.com Network declined to disclose her network's advertising prices.

Elevator News currently has contracts to install video screens in and supply video to 5,500 elevators in 400 buildings in the U.S. and Canada. In the last two months, Elevator News has signed agreements to provide its news and ad network to The Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center in New York, said Voltan. Screens are expected to be operating in the Empire State Building early next year. Screens in the Chrysler Building will begin operating in the next few weeks and in the Rockefeller Center soon after Christmas, he said.

Besides Synergy, Manulife and Trimakr, Elevator News Network's current advertisers include General Motors, IBM and Proctor & Gamble and Merrill Lynch Canada, all of Toronto.

Captivate.com Network has also signed leasing agreements to install its video news networks in about 500 elevators in the U.S., said Jackson. Captivate also has agreements with several companies, including CNN, The New York Times and Bridge Financial which will provide news and other content.

Captivate also offers Internet tie-ins such that elevator ads direct viewers to Captivate.com website for special offers, for example a printable $1 soup coupon, said Jackson.

Synergy became an advertiser for Elevator News Network in several buildings in which large brokerage firms have their offices, said Laura Curtis, director of marketing and communications at Synergy.

The 2 1/2 year old company had a bent for novel advertising schemes. To capture the attention of brokers in the Canadian mutual fund market, which is almost completely dependent on distribution by intermediaries, Synergy placed its fund ads in the bathrooms of bars it knew several brokers frequented, said Curtis.

Synergy, with $1.2 billion under management, has now created five different banner ad campaigns, each of which includes a series of four banner ads running back-to-back. Two of the ads play on Synergy's carefully cultivated reputation of offering diversified products. They have full color graphics of the different seasons, each representing a different core competency.

The other three ads poke fun at the advertising medium itself while promoting the fund group. One series of banner ads says: "Going up? So are we."; "The fastest growing mutual fund company in Canada."; "Synergy Mutual Funds,"; "www.synergyfunds.com." The fund group's logo is shown on each of the four banners.

Images rather than words work best in this environment, said Curtis. Promoting individual fund performance is not possible because of all of the regulatory disclosure that would be required, she said.

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