Digital out-of-home - a discipline in its own right?
12 September 2012
There’s a real buzz and energy surrounding the out-of-home (OOH) sector, and it’s easy to see why. From its heritage advertising roots, OOH has diversified due to the addition of digital. The digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising channel has evolved in a variety of ways.
It now truly engages with consumers through diverse methods such as touch, mobile or gesture, integrates with other media effectively via the likes of QR codes, features other enhanced technological functionality such as augmented reality and NFC, and crucially can now be planned, bought and implemented in a much more targeted and trackable manner.
These new weapons in its armoury have led to considerable growth. In the US, digital billboards have expanded significantly to over 2,500 sites as installation and technology costs have fallen.
China and Japan are also incredibly healthy markets for DOOH expansion, with revenues in China increasing nearly 40% in 2011 to $1.44bn according to PQMedia. All the while DOOH revenue in the UK has grown even over the recession to a 2011 value of $206m, according to the Outdoor Media Centre.
While DOOH screen technology is not replacing all our industry’s static sites, which can still and always will deliver brand awareness and standout in spades, what digital adds to the mix is engagement and technical connectivity to bring a more direct response element to the medium.
It could therefore be argued that digital screen technology requires a different approach to the way most outdoor platforms have traditionally been created, planned and implemented by brands. This format has added dimensions to OOH which have never before been possible. They can be tailored to be time sensitive so creative can be very swiftly altered and uploaded.
Add to the mix eye tracking technology and even facial recognition software, as employed by Plan UK’s “female only” campaign created earlier this year, and there is richness to the discipline which marks it as distinct from other channels. Furthermore, there is real potential from RFID technology-linked campaigns to capitalise on the latest assets in mobile engagement.
To capitalise on these developments to the fullest, it is arguable that DOOH – while necessarily ‘owned’ by the Outdoor industry as experts in their space – requires a fresh planning approach.
The new DOOH landscape is diverse. It encapsulates shopping malls, screens in underground stations and overground train terminals, as well as digital versions of billboards at roadsides and city centres. They invite interactivity – we have run campaigns where cameras allow shoppers to dance alongside penguins and immerse themselves in a movie landscape, as well as engaging with film trailer creative. Outdoor creative can be dynamic and truly of the moment in a way other platforms cannot match – excluding perhaps online.
Outdoor planners of the future will need to develop and hone skills to capitalise on these elements which are more frequently seen in the online and direct disciplines, to create content which catches the eye and appeals to target audiences, provokes direct response and can be swiftly updated and altered to respond to changing trends to make messaging hyper-relevant.
This understanding of the potential for digital out of home needs to be rooted in a fundamental understanding of the strengths of OOH techniques. Perhaps not a discipline in its own right, then, but a medium which invites creativity and innovation in its use.
Matt Gordon, co-founder, Limited Space