Advertising ventures on board

By August 15, 2015Opinion

Following Amazon’s introductory foray into selling advertising on its shipping boxes in the US, Danny Harrison, business development manager at corrugated packaging specialists, Nicklin Transit Packaging, looks at how the concept might develop here in Europe

As the global online retail juggernaut continues to steam ahead, it makes obvious sense for retailers to look for ways to find profit in e-commerce fulfillment. Ever at the forefront of innovation, it appears Amazon may have just found an achingly simple solution: third party advertising on the 3.5 million potential US billboards it issues each day – cardboard shipping boxes. In a unique new deal with Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment, the online retailer is packing shipments in bright yellow boxes decorated with characters from the movie cartoon “Minions”.

Although variations on the concept have been trialled before on a relatively low level both here and in the States, when Amazon throws its hat into the ring, other retailers tend to sit up and take notice. Indeed, the move already appears to be a big hit with consumers with many already posting photos of themselves with the colourful boxes on social media in combination with a promotional hashtag to be in with a chance of winning a $1,000 Amazon gift card. It’s the archetypal win-win for all concerned – the advertiser gets great exposure, the consumer gets access to unique new promotional vehicles and the retailer benefits from reduced costs which can be passed on to their own customers. What’s more, strong potential exists for the advertising to certainly contribute to and even in some circumstances, cover the entire cost of packaging spend. So why haven’t we seen advertising space sold in this way beforehand?

As with many challenges facing the packaging industry, it’s a matter of logistics and administration. It’s therefore no surprise to see a company with the sales volumes and wherewithal of Amazon be the first to bring it to market in earnest. For smaller packaging manufacturers like ourselves (and potential advertisers and retailers), issues such as standardising the placement and location of imagery, careful inventory management to avoid over expenditure and testing the print integrity for the rigours of transport would all need serious consideration before trialling the concept. Any brands and retailers would also need to work closely with a fulfilment company to deliver the proposition, get the demographics right and ultimately ensure there are genuine synergies between the item being shipped and the proposed campaign.

If Amazon can make the numbers stack up, we can expect to see much more of this type of activity in future, especially on projects where the synergies are obvious and immediate – a major online retailer carrying on pack advertising for London Fashion Week tor example.. The opportunities could also extend to B2B operations, with tie-ups with charities and industry wide initiatives potentially particularly appropriate for businesses looking to make their packaging work harder and deliver cost savings. At the very least, we can expect to see more and more use of QR codes on previously plain packaging which in itself should help marketeers look further into this largely untapped market.

With millions of cardboard boxes currently shipped ‘plain’ in Europe each year, it’s an opportunity marketeers and packaging manufacturers would be foolish to overlook. We now wait with bated breath to find out who will be the next brands and retailers to venture on-board…

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