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BFI IMAX - 25 years as a London icon

By M4G Bureau - June 11, 2024

Ocean Outdoor UK CEO Phil Hall says: “The BFI IMAX has a significant place in Ocean’s history as our original Ask For It By Name location.”

The BFI IMAX cinema in London's Waterloo celebrates 25 years on 11 June 2024, a milestone anniversary for the international landmark and celebrated global advertising destination.

Ocean was awarded the first BFI IMAX advertising contract 18 years ago (April 2006) and has been the sole incumbent to date, retaining the rights following a competitive pitch in 2022.

Global brands including Apple, Universal Pictures, Netflix, LMVH, Mercedes, Tiffany, Hugo Boss and HSBC have occupied the famous advertising banner during Ocean’s tenure. A proportion of the advertising revenue generated goes back to the BFI, which is a cultural charity and the UK’s lead organisation for film and the moving image.

Ocean Outdoor UK CEO Phil Hall said: “The BFI IMAX has a significant place in Ocean’s history as our original Ask For It By Name location. Eighteen years on, it remains one of the single biggest ticket items in the OOH world with occupancy rates achieved by no other asset. We continue to build on this success, securing the reputation of the BFI IMAX as a marquee asset in both the physical and digital realms.”

Lisa Rowe, BFI Director of Strategic Projects, said: “The Ocean team has worked to protect our asset and maintain our reputation and ethos, whilst maximising returns so that that BFI can continue to invest in its role as a charitable organisation to promote and preserve filmmaking and television in the UK.

“Working together, we have successfully weathered a period of unprecedented change in the media marketplace, where nearly 70p of every media pound spent on advertising is digital. Undeterred, Ocean continues to demonstrate the relevance of the BFI IMAX in the out of home landscape through sector leading sales, marketing, pioneering new technology, tremendous creativity and enhanced trading.”   

A seat of creative theatre

The BFI IMAX is Europe’s largest OOH canvas, combining 1,734m² of creative space with the latest technology in LED lighting to deliver unique, high impact advertising experiences. With its four traffic and pedestrian facing elevations dominating Waterloo, the BFI IMAX delivers 3.2 million impacts a week (source: ROUTE). London’s biggest banner gives brands a unique canvas to produce and film work for wider integrated campaigns, from TV spots to very shareable influencer content.

Taking OOH to the Max

1999: Completed in May, the IMAX cinema screen transformed the Southbank intersection south of Waterloo Bridge.

April 2006: Ocean was awarded the first BFI IMAX advertising contract and to date has been the sole operator.

2007: BFI IMAX is named the most wanted billboard by The Guardian.

2008: Daniel Craig made the first of FIVE appearances on the banner as 007.

2010: Ocean relaunched the banner as its first Ask For It By Name location.

2012: Bond returned for London 2012 along with a bespoke installation for Nike with Olympics content to demonstrate the IMAX’s customised LEDs.

2013: Ocean experimented with coloured ambient lighting, turning IMAX blue for Samsung using coloured gel filters, the LED mesh featuring video for the first time.

2015: This was the inspiration for another European first - Edison Live, a network of programmable LEDs offering creative flexibility for brands. Using these ambient LEDs, Ocean has since created hundreds of bespoke lighting sequences tailored to each brand, including stage spotlighting for EE, Dell, Costa Coffee and head-lighting for the AA. Edison lighting is now widely used in conjunction with bespoke LED installation, creating a unified, synced lighting sequence.

2022: Ocean retained the advertising rights and reinvented the IMAX, introducing a new suite of technical innovations, expanding the creative opportunities beyond the physical realm.

2024: To meet sustainability goals, in March the LEDs were upgraded, the investment in a high quality, energy saving operating system creating even better opportunities for brands while reducing energy usage by 30% and eliminating maintenance costs.


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