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Communication inside buildings. How to be efficient and effective.

In this white paper, we explore the importance and benefits of efficient communication in buildings. We’ll also look at the usage of vertical mobility as a valuable environment for all building communication needs.

Table of content

Introduction: a growing population challenges buildings to evolve their communication strategies

Communication technology needs have greatly changed in the last two years as a result of the pandemic. Customer journeys have been drastically altered, office workers and their companies have adopted virtual meetings, travel has been reduced, and communication channels have increased significantly. A 2020 study by Harvard Business School found that employees in 16 global cities faced a 5.2% [1] increase in email communication and a 13% increase in meetings. The pandemic has accelerated the acceptance of many digital communication platforms and has expanded the number of connected devices consumers own. The average U.S. household now possesses over 25 connected devices [2].

As customers, visitors, residents, and employees start returning to stores, hotels, airports, and offices, buildings are faced with the challenge of effectively communicating with their audiences in this extremely fragmented media environment. It’s a world of information overload with a multitude of distractions. Communication today is coming from personal devices like mobile phones and computers, traditional media like television and newspapers, online messaging, and out-of-home communication in ambient spaces, to name a few.

As buildings are competing with multiple communication channels to speak to their visitors, they are also evolving to efficiently support an incredible population growth. According to research by the United Nations [3], the increasing growth in urban centers and large cities will lead to more than 68% of the world’s population living in them by 2050. The trend toward urbanization, coupled with continued population growth, is giving rise to the development of larger cities, known as ‘megacities’. The world's population will grow from today's 8 billion people to a projected 9.7 billion by 2050.

In this context of rapid urbanization, and because cities cannot endlessly expand their territory, new buildings will need to be built taller. This is true for both the residential segment and the commercial space.

The expanding need for vertical mobility will translate into an increase in elevator use, and, by the same token, an increase in elevator passengers. This presents an increasing opportunity for buildings to capture people’s attention during the extra dwell times. Elevators are already used for communication today, however this communication is often still analog without any digital adoption, requiring manual processes and print communication.

Enabling elevators with communication infrastructure and understanding that elevators can be highly efficient communication platforms are important aspects for planning, management, and modernization in almost any type of building.

In this white paper, we explore the importance and benefits of efficient communication in buildings. We’ll also look at how the elevator space is a valuable environment for all building communication needs.

The office setting: influencing the employee experience

First, let’s look at the work environment since it heavily influences the communication needs for buildings in all segments. In 2020, employees globally found their work environments completely upended due to the pandemic. Communication inside organizations dramatically transformed. The need for real-time updates became critical for employee retention and satisfaction. It was suddenly a key component of effective communication from an organization to its employees, and a large contributor to helping increase productivity rates [4].

What are the expectations of the work force today and what has changed in this environment? Marco Huber, Lead Workplace Strategy for Jones Lang Lasalle in the DACH and CEE regions, explains the current communication needs in the office environment.

[Marco Huber]

With the increasingly inevitable and accelerating spread of hybrid working, the office is transforming into a melting pot for co-creation, innovation, and community. In contrast, remote working (at home or in third-party locations) is leveling off globally at 40% of working hours, favoring focused and individualized work, and therefore working environments must adapt to reflect the same.

https://www.us.jll.com/en/trends-and-insights/research/jll-future-of-work-survey-2022 [5]

This contrast also needs to be addressed and actually reinforced in terms of communication: the successful company invests in the best possible human experience in its own offices (and beyond). This motivates employees to go to the office more often, to work there more innovatively, and further builds the bond with the company.

‘Human experience design’ is a multi-layered concept that spans several disciplines, is constantly changing, and ideally can also react quickly to change. Here, what each individual perceives, along with the values and purpose of the company, all play a central role. This is a crucial area to be managed. External factors are also relevant, and, if possible, should be evaluated for inclusion.

The successful company invests in the best possible human experience in its own offices (and beyond).

Here is an example: a company has a head office in the center of a large metropolis. A central building has been deliberately chosen because the company wants to couple the working experience with the sensation of vibrant city life. For the employee, this means deliberately moving from a secluded home office to a bustling zone where collaboration and interaction are "normal."

You now enter your own building, and this is where the ‘exclusive’ experience begins. Already before the elevator and then inside, a company has the possibility to specifically build up the desired experience — be it via a basic conditioning that transfers corporate values: e.g. communication of meaningful initiatives or linked actualities, such as s today's events or company-relevant news; be it via ‘mood conditioning’: this building is for collaboration and innovation, so I can transfer content that puts you in a desired state of mind to do so: Sound carpets or mood images are proven examples here.

Of course, one must understand that the great value here lies primarily in lateral communication (in addition to incident-driven communication). Lateral communication is a connection to a person, which does not require full attention, but almost casually, unconsciously supports the goal – in this case, the creation of the targeted experience.

The designed and targeted experience becomes more and more important in the new office and does not end with the elevator. Rather, it must continue without transition. But the start, after entering the building, will usually begin immediately with queuing for the elevator. A perfect experience already starts here.

Marco Huber leads Jones Lang Lasalle’s Workplace strategy team in the DACH and CEE regions, helping multinational companies develop their workspace into a strategic value driver. JLL is a leading global real estate service firm with its own research and consulting division focused on the future of work, workforce, and technology.

Types of Communication

When someone walks into a building, there is a general understanding of intention. People visiting a shopping center typically intend to make purchases, in airports they intend to travel and in an office building, people are heading to work. Communication needs in these buildings are driven by these intentions, where different use cases lead to different communication styles. The most common use cases for building communication are advertising, informing and entertaining.

Advertising is described as paid media, often found in shopping malls, airports, and train stations. Informing can be internal promotions, like in a hotel where the aim is to increase the average spend per guest, or in office and residential buildings, where internal information about building specific topics is relevant to the employees or residents. Entertaining is about creating enjoyable experiences in a building through communication technology.

Communication environments: choose the right place. Fit the right style

These types of communication are not unique to the building environment, however, the way a building is used for communication can be. Communication within a building is not individualized, unlike targeted messaging one might receive via a social app or while browsing online. Many reasons support this, but the main argument for the use cases described is the higher efficiency of a one-to-many medium: messages here are relevant to many visitors within a building and the goal is to create awareness on topics. For example, a hotel would find it important to promote its restaurant or spa offers to all guests, with the purpose of driving increased spending within the hotel. Unlike online media, where the main goal is direct interaction with one individual person, one-to-many media does not require obtaining an individual’s data, which is coming under increased regulation in most parts of the world.

An important challenge of one-to-many communication is fighting the distraction of the environment. This is when it becomes crucial to choose the right place to communicate, not just the right content. Transit locations, places of sale, waiting areas – all offer opportunities for these types of media. Consider the advertising media you see within airports, where there are large audiences that can be reached. In shopping malls, stores can directly target shoppers and influence the flow of traffic toward their "unique" offering. In places of wait, for example a cinema theater, the audience is already captured, making it hard to miss the message. Communicating within a building in these environments is ‘unblockable’ and results in very high awareness and retention levels. Technology like ad-blockers, which are used by consumers in online advertising to avoid a message, are irrelevant in this arena. This brings the added benefit that your audience cannot avoid what you want to communicate.

Rachana Lokhande is the founder of the consulting firm Glocal Bridge and an advisor to the Indian Outdoor Advertising Association. She has been instrumental in developing unified measurement solutions for the Out-of-Home (OOH) and Digital-Out-of-Home (DOOH) industry in India. She is the former co-CEO of Kinetic Worldwide in India, one of the largest planner and digital innovators in Out of Home advertising.

As an adviser to the Indian Outdoor Advertising Association, Rachana Lokhande knows the importance of selecting the right environment for communicating and advertising, and how receptive an audience can be in these spaces.

[Rachana Lokhande]

Our primal instincts are to be more alert in an open environment. Research shows that we are 2.5x more receptive to any communication when we are out of home [6]. Therefore, brands use Out-of-Home (OOH) media as it is a perfect setting for advertisers to communicate about the brand, product, and its proposition.

In this receptive environment, you need to ensure that the OOH format is placed where it is easily visible (size and location) and the consumer has enough wait time to absorb the message.

It is therefore important to ensure that the placement of the advertisement is in areas where the audience has a very high dwell time.

Large and uncluttered formats have better visibility and probability that the message will be read. But when the audience is in the metro, riding the railways, at airports, or inside office premises, the format’s size should be reduced depending on the ambience. It is therefore important to ensure that the placement of the advertisement is in areas where the audience has a very high dwell time. At airports, you therefore have more retail and advertisements in waiting areas after security check-in. There, the dwell time can be as high as an hour.

But for places like office premises, you need to ensure the placement is in a low distraction area. Elevators become a natural fit for placement of advertisements. In the small elevator space, there is limited audience per trip, mobile network coverage is low and there is no distraction. An eye-level digital screen inside the elevator adds life to the ecosystem. The bright colors, smart images, weather indicator, and local news are all relevant for the audience using the elevator, and a welcome distraction. The screen not just intrigues but also informs the audience at the same time.

Digitization has raised the levels of efficiency and effectiveness in building communication. A vast network of centrally connected screens is capable of relaying any content or advertising within an hour. Flexibility to change content is one of the biggest advantages of digital screens. Location data, local events, and weather are all sources of information an advertiser can utilize to dynamically optimize creatives and produce customized content that delivers relevance to the audience in every communication.

All of this can be tracked and measured without manual interference. Hence the medium does not just prove to be efficient, it also remains effective.

It is a one-to-‘highly targeted audience’ medium, and, with the availability of programmatic solutions, advertisers can now micro-target audiences by different parts of the day for various purposes. It just requires using audience and location intelligence data, all accessible from a platform.

This opens opportunities for SME and local brands to conduct hyperlocal campaigns, hence improving the overall growth of the sector.

Print vs. digital. Who has the edge

The digital transformation is occurring in many industries, but one where the impact started years ago and can be easily seen is within the media/advertising industry. Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) is the fastest-growing media category as can be seen in the MAGNA 2020 forecast report [7].

Digital media allows for multiple messages to be shown sequentially in one space, via digital processing, with no on-site intervention or logistics needed. Consider the example of placing a poster in a building lobby. The poster must be created and printed, then provided to someone to physically go to the building and put it up. Later, somebody must return when the message is no longer valid, trying to update it before the message is outdated. Digitizing the process reduces the need for paper waste and logistics and enables a building to create multiple messages in this same space. Digital media is an extremely effective form of communication compared to other formats; retention of the message and willingness to view is higher than in online marketing or for traditional billboards [8].

The other factor driving the growth of digital communication is the acceptance of screens in everyday life. The average consumer interacts with a wide range of screens within a day, from personal screens like tablets, mobile phones, and televisions, to functional screens on appliances and in cars, as well as media and communication from screens in the public setting, within buildings. A study by Deloitte [9], titled "Future of Screens," outlines different scenarios on how screens could be used in the next ten years. In one scenario titled "Army of Interfaces," screens are key enablers for IOT (Internet of Things), being used in multiple examples as the front interface to connect to a network of devices. This future envisions screens in public places to display not just media, but also critical communication like navigation and local services. These screens will be present in buildings where communication can be tailored to specific audiences. In another scenario, the authors envision screens being used to display only semi-targeted content in both public and private places – boding well for the growth of the one-to-many medium in general.

What is productive digital communication and why the elevator environment works well

The more screens continue to enable various parts of our lives, the more fragmentation that occurs, especially with communication. From the perspective of a building communicating with guests, visitors, customers, or residents, making sure a message is not just seen, but also retained, is critical. Digital communication solves the problem of efficient, relevant, and attractive communication, but it does not solve the problem of high distraction. Our mobile phones are digital, and yet within this small screen are dozens of apps competing for attention. When a building must compete against mobile phones and emails to communicate with its visitors, it needs to do so in low distraction environments. There is a location which exists in nearly all buildings, where even mobile phones are rarely used: the elevator.

Captivate has been a communication leader in North America in the elevator space for over 25 years. Nicolas Beaver and Alice Gogh explain that while the space is perfect for high retention, the content itself is just as important to make sure your message is received.

[Nicolas Beaver & Alice Gogh]

While a traditionally awkward environment, the elevator can be transformed into a positive experience for the rider. Beyond the conventional investments in lighting, paneling, and décor, digital media embodies an intentional approach to create an uplifting experience.

"Efficient communication must be effective communication"
Communication is critical to establishing long-term relationships with tenants, residents, or guests. A building’s messaging can promote both safety and brand loyalty, so long as the message is both effective and efficient.

Effective communication means a message is received and remembered. Efficient communication means the message is sent with minimum resources expended. The hallmark of a successful communication plan achieves both and consequently delivers value to both the property and the viewer. At the heart of this success is a proficiency in the science and art of content.

"Content is an experience, enhancing the message"
People are inundated with digital information throughout the day. Work emails, news, push notifications, and texts are all competing for attention. A person’s average media consumption is 7.5 hours a day [10]. So, the question is: what actually cuts through the digital din?
Captivate’s proprietary research has found that coupling messaging with curated content that is productive, timely, and tailored to the viewer, enhances message retention and delivers an uplifting experience.


Effective communication means a message is received and remembered. Efficient communication means the message is sent with minimum resources expended.

A 2021 Office Pulse study found that over 90% of respondents liked seeing a weather dashboard on their building’s digital signage, elevator, or in the lobby. Over 80% of respondents liked seeing "3 Things You Need to Know"— the latest trending topics from the world of news, sports, business, and entertainment, all in one convenient place. These digital escapes and actionable insights are deliberately curated and data-supported to create a "lean-in" experience. For example, providing viewers with pictures of vivid, beautiful landscapes can relieve stress [11] and provide a brief mental escape, which can be helpful during the workday.

Part two of the winning content formula is to inform. Nearly 40% of Captivate’s viewership relies on elevator screens as a key source of news during the day. Investing in a holistic content experience pays off when it contextualizes and elevates property messaging, e.g., upcoming events, sustainability initiatives or even on-site amenities. According to Captivate’s Tenant Satisfaction survey, over 95% of tenants believe that Captivate’s elevator screens are an effective way to communicate building information.

Property messaging is an indispensable tool to keep people informed about important building protocols, community events, emergencies, and more. For it to run successfully, the digital investment must reach the intended recipients, be simply administered, and easily scale. Property messaging that works is not just about the message. It’s about the whole viewer experience. If executed well through an accessible and engaging platform, property communication can help maximize tenant and resident satisfaction. This liberates management to focus on other high impact activities. An intentional plan to inform and delight creates engagement, loyalty and ROI.

Nicolas Beaver, SVP Real Estate Sales & Partnerships
Leaning on his strong financial and economics background, Nic brings a fresh perspective to the media space. His international education and rigorous data-driven focus breed results.

Alice Gogh, SVP Strategy, Innovation & Content
Alice leads strategy, innovation, and product to deliver growth and foster a culture of change at Captivate. She leverages a diversified background centered around strategy and execution in organizations spanning legal, finance, insurance, and technology.

Examples of elevator media

Not all buildings are the right environment for advertising, but all buildings have information they need to share with the people using the building. Below are examples of elevator media from all three types of building communication explored earlier: advertising, informing, and entertaining.


The Bühl Center shopping mall in Krems, Austria, has placed digital screens in the elevators to communicate near the points of sale of their 60-plus tenants. Where they used to only advertise one offer in print posters, they can now offer this advertising space to all their tenants and perform real-time updates. This building uses the screens not just for advertising but also as information kiosks, with services like store location within the shopping center.


This residential building in Berlin is using the screen in the elevator to update residents about building maintenance, building activities and weather forecasts.


In the Swiss pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, every inch of the building was creating an experience for guests, including the elevators. Inside the elevators were large format screens showing short films, small screens showing welcome messages, and projectors on the elevator doors, all enhancing the environment of the pavilion. 

Elevator media is an energy-efficient communication medium

While the elevator space is a remarkably productive environment to communicate with masses of visitors, it can also be an environment for more sustainable communication. DOOH is in fact the most sustainable form of media today. Digital signage eliminates the need for paper communication and on-site updating logistics. In addition, new elevator technology can allow for screens connected with elevator equipment to go into standby mode whenever the elevator is not in use. If there is no audience, there is no active screen.

Frank Goldberg, CEO of the Institute for Digital Out of Home Media (IDOOH) in Germany, goes into further detail about the energy efficiency of DOOH.

[Frank Goldberg]

Man-made climate change is the topic of the century. While the astonishing rise in energy prices has made the situation explicit, we were already confronted with the question of whether we're doing enough to save energy. And it's only natural that advertising media account for their energy efficiency as well.

So let's take a look:

In Germany, the media agency Mediaplus, a subsidiary of the Serviceplan Group, together with the sustainability consultancy ClimatePartner, has calculated the CO2 emissions per 1,000 advertising contacts for all advertising media. They have made the results available in a regularly updated web-based CO2 calculator [12]. The following data is from May, 2022:

At 5 to 6 grams of CO2 per 1,000 contacts, DOOH is the most energy-efficient advertising medium. Even audio media have higher CO2 emissions. Moving image media show significantly higher levels and print media produce up to 2,000 times higher CO2 emissions than DOOH.

Why is that?

DOOH screens are a one-to-many media with high individual reach, meaning that a lot of different people pass by a DOOH screen during the course of a day. Most other media are one-to-one (online, mobile) or one-to-few (TV, print). This means that one advertiser, for example, needs 1,000 smartphones or close to 1,000 newspapers to generate 1,000 contacts, whereas the advertiser needs only one or a few DOOH screens to reach the same number of contacts.

Every smartphone and every TV consume electricity. The production of paper demands a lot of energy. Videos are streamed to smartphones and desktops, again consuming energy. Newspapers and posters must be distributed physically, also requiring energy. For DOOH screens, the video spots shown are stored locally and need not be streamed continuously but transmitted only once to the local hard drive.

This means that one advertiser, for example, needs 1,000 smartphones or close to 1,000 newspapers to generate 1,000 contacts, whereas the advertiser needs only one or a few DOOH screens to reach the same number of contacts.

In addition, although the maximum possible power consumption of a DOOH screen - as stated in the technical data - can be quite high, DOOH screens actually operate at only a fraction of this maximum. This is because many DOOH screens are located indoors, where they do not compete with direct sunlight.

Therefore, individually, DOOH screens may consume more energy than a TV or a smartphone, but taken as a whole, they significantly reduce the carbon footprint of an advertising campaign.

Frank Goldberg has been active in digital outdoor advertising for over 20 years. He heads an industry association for Digital Out of Home advertising (DOOH) together with his Co-CEO, Nadia Abou-El-Ela. Frank and Nadia founded the Digital Media Institute (DMI) in 2013. In 2022, their institute participated in the founding of IDOOH along with two other companies: Ströer and Goldbach. Their DOOH market media study, ‘Public & Private Screens’ can be found here: (https://idooh.media/marktforschung/).


As communication continues to fragment and cities become more populated, buildings owners will need to find efficient ways to communicate with their tenants and visitors. A great example of flourishing building communication is already found in the highly urbanized countries of Brazil and China, where elevator media has become a standard form of advertising and communication. And in 2020, when the OOH industry suffered losses due to the pandemic – since much of its media inventory was located in the travel and shopping segments – those countries continued to see growth in its elevator advertising segments; advertisers were able to reach people in their homes. Even in face of strict societal shutdowns, communication still kept flowing.

But the pandemic is not the only external driver behind the growth of elevator media. Wherever outdoor advertising in public spaces is restricted or banned, advertisers are looking for new channels and opportunities to reach their target audience. Elevators in homes and places of work provide these opportunities. These "captive" networks, as categorized by PWC’s 2021-2025 Global Entertainment and Media Outlook report, face a lower distraction factor compared to other media consumers. Since navigating distraction-filled surroundings dulls a person's ability to retain information, the elevator is proving to be a trustworthy vehicle for valuable communication.

Delivering curated content in distraction-free locations increases message retention considerably. In this world where digital out-of-home media is continuing to grow, buildings have gained the ability to subtly influence the entire visitor experience. With the added benefits of exponential reach and energy conservation, the one-to-many medium – achievable inside buildings – is appealing to advertisers, property managers, and even the public.

Schindler Digital Media Services – Roundtable Discussion

To learn more about Schindler’s digital media offerings for buildings, please visit our website or reach out to your local Schindler team. To see some of our contributors discussing this topic together, please watch our roundtable discussion about "Efficient Building Communication".