Digital OOH Could be Where the Real Election Battle Takes Place

By Craig Barber, Head of Innovation & Emerging Media at Rapport

It is argued that OOH is the battleground of election politics. 2015 is different in that this is the first time Digital OOH has real visibility at a national level, with exposure in the top ten most populated cities across the UK. We might find that the winning party not only activates a strong billboard campaign, but also uses digital OOH to its full potential.

The recipe for success may be to look at the Obama social media campaign in both 2008 and 2012. In the last U.S. election, Obama’s campaign spent ten times more than rival Mitt Romney, and with that, was able to achieve a level of personalisation to its audience through platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. This created tangible policies that the electorate could relate to in their own personal feeds – policies that mattered to them. Another major area for its success was immediacy of message. This was real-time campaigning, able to react to rivals and commentate on the ever changing political topics of the moment. Finally was its visual nature. Memes became hugely symbolic in the race to the White House, with sharing of the images garnering an unstoppable momentum that was hard for Romney to counteract.

Many media analysts look to those social campaigns to demonstrate the power of media in an election battle. It arguably had the same impact as the legendary Nixon and JFK TV debates that altered political campaigning thereafter. The current set of UK political parties have a tool in Digital OOH that is completely untapped in election campaigning. It offers a lot more than just strong visuals that will run across billboards throughout the UK.

Digital OOH can provide contextual advertising with relevant and personalised messages. The Ocean screen at Canary Wharf could provide a platform for understanding key economic issues, with real time analysis of the FTSE and live commentary from a party expert. Or maybe education policies displayed on Primesight’s digital cinema network that only targets ‘U’ or “PG” rated movies. It’s completely plausible to have a full digital network that is geo-targeted to audience segments with relevant messaging by time of day across all of the major cities. It’s a way to deliver key political messages where they matter most and to whom they matter.  

Immediacy of message is the next crucial trait that provides Digital OOH with an advantage over traditional media. Much will be made of the televised leader debates, and whilst there will be numerous Ipsos MORI polls claiming one winner over the other, it’s the messaging after that could provide a final blow to opponents. With systems such as Grand Visual’s Open Loop, tweets and stats can be provided almost immediately to hammer home the political point and more importantly build on the ever important election momentum.  

Visually, Digital OOH stands above and beyond traditional posters sites with its inherent bright vibrancy and sizing. The neuroscience study by Ocean demonstrated that audiences hardwire these messages more clearly than traditional posters, so combined with the aforementioned characteristics, Digital OOH becomes a hugely important tool for any political party looking to seek victory come May 7th. Billboards will still be key for distributing the striking visual, but Digital OOH will offer that flair.

It begs the question as to whether the political parties, and more importantly the media agencies that they employ, have understood the huge potential Digital OOH offers this election. However, in some cases it is not possible to advertise a political party message as this will be at the discretion of individual landlord agreements and media owners. It will be a missed opportunity if we see only static ads running across these giant digital screens of the Outdoor world in the build up to the most unpredictable election of recent times.

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