BT is donating up to £7.5 million of outdoor advertising space to small businesses, as part of its roll-out of new Street Hub 2.0 units – which help build the UK’s digital infrastructure and include services such as digital advertising screens and ultrafast Wi-Fi.
BT’s latest measure to support the growth of small businesses, following the easing of Covid restrictions, coincides with the unveiling of its newly designed digital street units in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
The first of BT’s Street Hub 2.0 units – which goes live today on Notting Hill Gate – is co-located with a pop-up ‘Design Hub’ which showcases the power of digital street advertising for small firms looking to boost awareness of their business following the pandemic.
Design experts will be on hand throughout the day to create free digital ads for the 15 prize winners of a BT competition which gathered nominations from local businesses and the public. The adverts will then be displayed on the six Street Hub units which are being deployed across Kensington and Chelsea, free of charge. A further 60 local businesses are also being given the chance to advertise for free over the next two weeks, with BT opening up nominations from today.
BT is gifting up to £7.5m of free advertising space to local businesses via its Street Hub 2.0 units between now and the end of March, as the new units are rolled out to new locations across the UK including Glasgow, Cardiff, Nottingham, Birmingham and Solihull and Southampton. BT will be contacting local businesses and the public in these areas over the coming weeks to encourage them to nominate local firms who could benefit from the offer.
The launch comes as a new BT study found that more than 60 per cent of small businesses agree that local advertising would help to increase awareness of their business, with 40 per cent saying it would encourage more people to shop at their local high street. However, almost half (49 per cent) said that cost was a major obstacle to them investing in local Out Of Home (OOH) advertising. BT is now taking action to remove one of the biggest barriers to adoption, with the Street Hub’s digital advertising screens designed to help small firms attract more customers following the local and national lockdowns.
Theo Blackwell, Chief Digital Officer for London, said: “BT’s Street Hubs ensure that Londoners have access to fast and free Wi-Fi across the capital whilst on the go, they improve mobile signal, and help councils to get vital local information to their residents. The pandemic has been incredibly challenging for many small businesses, so I’m pleased that BT is supporting London’s businesses through free local digital advertising.”
James Browne, who runs BT’s Street business, said: “BT has been supporting the recovery and growth of small businesses throughout the pandemic – and we’re moving up a gear now that lockdown restrictions have lifted. We hope that, by gifting free digital advertising space via our new Street Hub units, we can give small businesses an extra boost as high streets spring back to life. Our new Street Hub units can play a vital role in helping small firms to bounce back – whether that’s through building greater awareness of their business through free advertising, or by rejuvenating the high street by boosting local digital infrastructure.”
BT’s latest study also revealed that around two thirds (66 per cent) of local businesses think that mobile connectivity could be improved in their local community, to help them work faster and smarter. BT’s new Street Hub 2.0 units will enhance local digital infrastructure by including the option to install mini mobile masts or ‘small cells’ on the structure to further boost 4G and 5G coverage in the local area. The new Street Hubs also feature free Gigabit WiFi and rapid mobile device charging, enhancing digital connectivity and services for communities. Other benefits include access to an emergency call button, charity helplines, and local wayfinding via an integrated tablet.
BT’s new Street Hub 2.0 units can also help local councils achieve their social and economic improvement and sustainability goals. Each local authority is provided with 5 per cent of total screen time on each Street Hub unit to promote local community and municipal services such as food banks, health and social care or leisure activities. They can also inform the local community about developments or issues affecting their area. For example, during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 400 existing Street Hub units across the country played a vital role in displaying key public health advice from Public Health England and local councils.
With nearly two thirds of all local authorities aiming to become carbon neutral by 2030, each Street Hub 2.0 unit can also be fitted with air quality and CO2 sensors. This will provide local councils with the insight needed to help them take action to improve air quality, contributing to the health and wellbeing of local people.
Subject to local planning processes, BT is aiming to roll out around 300 of its new Street Hub 2.0 units across the UK over the next 12 months, working closely with local councils and communities.
Charlene Ashong, Founder of Fitaly, a local eatery on the Olympia side of Kensington High Street, said: “As a business founded four years ago, the pandemic hit us at a vital part of our growth trajectory, given a large base of our clientele come from the exhibition centre. The power of local advertising is so important to us – mainly because we are at a distance from the main hustle and bustle of the High Street. The impact of the pandemic also naturally means our budgets are tight, so it’s not something we would normally be able to spend out on. The opportunity to have our name in lights on BT Street Hubs to let the local community know we are here, and open, is going to be a massive boost for our business. We look forward to welcoming more people through our doors, especially to sample our new range of healthier pizzas!”
Nick Warry, Store Manager at Slick Willies Skate Store, said: “As one of London’s oldest stores providing equipment for skateboarding, roller skating and roller blading we have a loyal customer base that has existed since the 1970s. We’re not only proud of the service we provide to the local skating community but the atmosphere and support we bring to the local skating community. In a world where big brands and retailers are eating into our market, it’s really important the new generation of skaters know who and where we are – not just for sales, but for advice and to feel part of the wider community. The BT Street Hub is going to help push our message and play a part in ensuring we remain an integral part of the High Street.”
Jessica Louro, Manager at S&P Gallery, said: “We’re a young business in South Kensington that opened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Operating throughout various lockdowns has restricted our growth. It’s commonly recognised by our local business community in Gloucester Road that it takes five years to become established. We hope that by advertising for free via the BT Street Hub 2.0, that more people will become aware of us, visiting the gallery and being a part of the wonder of the arts that we provide.”
Lisa Franklin, CEO & Founder of Lisa Franklin London, commented: “We’re a business built with the purpose of giving people respite from the business of London life. As a small organisation, footfall and a local presence is vital to us building a loyal customer base. Beauty is a competitive market, so if the local community do not know where we are and what we can offer it’s hard to establish ourselves. We’re excited about the benefits that the BT Street Hub advertising is going to provide and we’re really optimistic about boosting awareness of our company as a result.”