Rewriting Outdoor’s Future

Digital OOH has certainly come a long way. The Screenplay: Re-writing Outdoor’s Future conference demonstrated exactly how far the industry has come. We saw numerous topics discussed, from scale and flexibility to user-generated content and data rich activations. Most thought-provoking however were the challenges the industry needs to overcome to truly be considered a ubiquitous medium, one that can deliver on key client objectives. Without question, the future of Digital OOH is an exciting one, and nurtured correctly, its progression unbounded.

Diageo provided an insightful piece on the link up of mobile interactivity to generate a real ROI at trade. To see Digital OOH and Mobile integrated so effectively proved that for all of the industry talk of these two mediums working together, here was a real case in point of it being activated well.

Dave Coplin of Microsoft provided a glimpse of the future in how technology will gravitate around the consumer rather than the consumer gravitate around the technology. Personalised Digital OOH content, served directly to individuals, was one avenue Dave could see happening in the industry before too long.

However, it was Andrew Mortimer, Director of Brand & Media at Sky, who opened up the biggest discussion points of the day. And don’t take our word for it; a word-cloud generated from the event’s official twitter hashtag demonstrates how his points resonated with the audience present – or at least those that took to social media to further the conversation.

In fact, of the top 15 most retweeted comments at the event, 50% of these were exclusively around the topics raised in Mortimer’s presentation. So what was it that captivated so many people?

Scale and flexibility was the core takeout. In essence, Digital OOH should be used as a medium that can help deliver key objectives in the most reactive and flexible of means. Relevance at scale was also discussed in depth by Google, who showcased how content delivered in a contextual way was key to ensuring Digital OOH was at the forefront of engaging activations.

And it was this scale that seemed to resonate most with audiences. There was a belief that for every ground-breaking creative activation, such as the #BALookup campaign, there were many more duds.

Trying to chase that elusive media first ignores many of the key principles of media planning. Instead agencies and clients need to focus on scale, with Sky being one of the few advertisers who arguably use Digital OOH in this fashion.

So how did Sky achieve this? The answer lies in data collaboration. Or to be precise, the use of Rapport’s planning tool Alloy, Route audience data and Sky’s IQ customer data analysis. Sky is in effect buying audiences rather than panels. Not only this, but the most effective activations came when Digital OOH was weighted according to programming needs. With the addition of displaying different creative execution by day, by screen and by audience, the Digital OOH story finally came to fruition. Here was a medium that was delivering on its potential. In fact, Digital OOH was twice as effective as traditional OOH, four times as effective as VOD and online and six times more effective than radio in achieving key Sky objectives.

Whilst a success story in its own right, there were some key challenges laid down to the market by Mortimer. With Sky being the biggest spender in OOH, with one in four of their pounds being spent on Digital OOH, it was clearly an opinion backed up by substance.

Firstly was the breaking down of barriers for entry into Digital OOH. Uniformity of products is needed. Whilst understandable that screens will differ with each technology, it would certainly be welcome to have some guidelines as an industry for the way in which future screens are developed. If we as an industry manage to have a unified product, we will find that Digital OOH grows stronger and quicker.

Secondly, whilst audience measurement was discussed in great depth, the reality is that of the 30,000 digital screens represented by the OMC, less than 10% are measured by Route. This must be rectified quickly to provide substance to the industry’s claims that as a medium it delivers reach as well as interactivity.

Finally was the topic of buying Digital OOH. Whilst programmatic was only briefly mentioned, the point was that a flexible medium needs to have a flexible trading system in place. One of the questions asked was “if you started from scratch, would you look to sell Digital OOH in a two-week cycle?” A rhetorical question certainly, but most definitely a fair one. The industry must be careful to ensure old OOH habits do not stifle a flourishing medium. With an estimated two in three digital OOH campaigns still being bought in this traditional way, the feeling is that as an industry we need to re-evaluate how we break down those barriers. Mortimer explained that the premium for buying day-part on Digital OOH is unrivalled when compared to other media and as such will hamper how the industry grows.

All of the speakers demonstrated the power of Digital OOH. Without question it has reached a new phase in its lifespan, where scale and flexibility can be discussed in the same breath as innovation. There was an air of maturity about the industry at the conference, where honest questions were asked of itself and a self-assessment provided to ensure that Digital OOH continues to head in the right direction. And ironically, that point answered one of the challenges set out by charismatic chair Steve Parker towards the end of the session when he asked Digital OOH to “Be confident and be collaborative”.

by Craig Barber, Head of Innovation & Emerging Media

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