BT is donating up to £7.5m 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 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.
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% 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%) 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%) 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.