Switzerland is a billboard land. With a share of over 14% of the national advertising market as well as around 60,000 ad locations the billboard medium occupies the top spot by international standards. The necessary transparency in outdoor advertising is provided by Swiss Poster Research Plus (SPR+), which analyzes the media effectiveness of posters. As an independent institution, it investigates public travel habits and determines the weighted exposure to billboard surfaces. In the latest mobility study, 10,000 test persons recorded and analyzed 2.7 million GPS kilometres of routes in 12 Swiss metropolitan areas over a sum total of 70,000 measurement days.
In order to make such comprehensive research results available in digital form with added value to media planners and billboard providers, SPR+ was searching for a suitable technology with which the corresponding software could be developed. From the start, one solution – distributed via CD – stood out without question. Urs Hofmann, General Manager of SPR+ explains: “We wanted to avoid the usual installation problems and in addition keep software distribution as efficient and cost-effective as possible.” Furthermore, the tool needed to be usable independently of platform and browser and convenient to operate even for novice users. It was quickly obvious, according to Hofmann, with these principles in mind, that the new application would need to be implemented as a Rich Internet Application (RIA), a web application with a high degree of interactivity.
Web Application with Desktop Look and Feel
SPR+ closely examined several web technologies with this set of requirements. It soon became clear that the RIA framework UltraLightClient (ULC), which forms the core of Basel-based Canoo Engineering’s RIA Suite, provided the best solution. As Hofmann continues: “Of all the evaluated technologies, ULC was the only solution which would allow us to implement our desired desktop look and feel. Unlike other technologies, there were no constraints in the integration of complex graphics whatsoever, and the means to implement the required spectrum of functionality were clearly available.” A further reason for Hofmann deciding on the RIA toolkit from Basel was the provider’s long-standing experience. “Canoo has been on the market with ULC for more than ten years and is thus a real pioneer in the RIA field. We were therefore certain that ULC would provide a solid, well proven architecture”.
Together with Canoo, SPR+ finally set to work on the development of the online tool. The corresponding data model was supplied by the German Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems. The result of this collaboration was SPR+ Expert, a web based Java application for outdoor advertising and billboard planning in Switzerland.
Today the tool provides support for media planners and advertising specialists in all phases of their campaign process – from the initial simulation and detailed planning, right down to the proven exposure effectiveness of the media. The application has been well received by users – not least thanks to its intuitive and highly interactive interface, Hofmann maintains.
Efficient development thanks to 100% Java
According to Hofmann, the comparatively rapid development of SPR+ Expert is not just due to the exceptional flexibility of Canoo’s developers, but also the fact that ULC is exclusively based on Java. While other technologies in general require training in several technologies, developers using ULC are able to work with Java as the sole programming language. Furthermore, laborious configuration and browser adaptation are also dispensed with.
Experience shows these factors reduce development time for web applications by 30-50%. Time savings are also achieved with ULC due to the purely server-side programming, as this entails less programming effort and less complexity.
In addition, the lightweight web architecture has vital benefits for today’s users. The end user does not need to install SPR+ Expert on his computer nor does he need to worry about updates. Furthermore, he always has access to the latest poster data. Maximum security is assured since the application runs in a protected, standardized plugin rather than in the browser itself. Hofmann is likewise impressed with the performance of the online tool:
“Delays in page construction with complex structures encountered with other web technologies such as Ajax are no issue thanks to technology used. SPR+ Expert provides response times that users only know from desktop applications.”
This has been made possible by the fact that all computations are executed directly on the server and only sent to the client for visual formatting. This reduces data traffic to a minimum and the application runs smoothly and efficiently even on computers with low-power processors.
In the meantime SPR+ Expert has become the industry’s standard tool, as Hofmann acknowledges: “Practically every major agency evaluates and analyzes their poster campaigns with it and a further 80 organizations utilize the cost-free basic version of the program for campaign simulations and draft planning.”