The world’s oldest advertising medium has undergone a rebirth of late, emerging to embrace everything from touch screens to gesture recognition to augmented reality and near field communications, offering advertisers more and more creative ways to target consumers. The past year alone has seen incredibly innovative examples of interactive out of home, from McCain bringing ‘scratch-and-sniff’ into the 21st century, to Mr Kipling posters dispensing cake and Tissot allowing shoppers to ‘try-on’ watches through augmented reality window displays. And last week we even seen a 30 foot tall girl make her way through Liverpool as part of a highly creative experiential event. It’s a development that has not escaped our attention and in November this year The Drum will host the first ever Creative Out of Home Awards to celebrate and reward those who make out of home work for their clients.
“2012 is an exciting time for out of home”, according to Rebecca Bainbridge of out of home media agency Kinetic, who went on to explain that “the nexus between smart device, interactivity, location, digital out of home and consumer affinity with technology in our everyday lives has created a new medium for brands”.
JCDecaux Airport MD Steve Cox, meanwhile, forecasts substantial growth in out of home advertising utilising digital and interactive technology, saying usage “has grown rapidly over the past five years despite challenging economic circumstances” to account for 15% of all advertising revenue spent on outdoor, before predicting that this should “continue to grow over the next 5/10 years, with estimates suggesting 25% overall by 2020”.
Cox explained: “There’s no doubt that the adoption of new digital and interactive technology has raised the profile of the medium in the minds of advertisers, and opened it up for brands and campaigns that might not previously have considered out of home. The additional flexibility that comes with digital screens has enabled brands to run campaigns with levels of connection and relevance previously unthinkable.”
But advancement in out of home means so much more than digital screens. So, over the next few pages, we look at the host of interactive elements being built into outdoor formats, such as billboards enabled with augmented reality, NFC and QR codes, as well as developments such as multi-sensory advertising and its use of scent, touch, sound and taste to add new dimensions to the out of home brand experience.
Out of home may well have its roots in tradition, being one of the oldest forms of mass communication, but it also tends to have its finger on the pulse, making the most of the latest technological developments to engage with consumers in increasingly innovative and memorable ways, from the printing press through the development of electronic screens to its most recent guise embracing all things digital and capitalising on the proliferation of smartphones and the ‘always-on’ consumer.
Through NFC, gesture recognition, touchscreen, QR codes and augmented reality, “the power of poster is now being magnified,” as Mungo Knott of Primesight put it. And this power is likely only to increase in coming years as it becomes a key point of interaction with consumers and an important revenue stream.
Out of Home International’s John Kehoe explained that the industry is continually expanding and becoming increasingly intelligent “in order to keep up with the tech savvy consumer”. Digital out of home, he said, means “so much more than digital screens and video signage”.
Referring to quick response (QR) codes in particular, Kehoe said these 2D matrix barcodes can be a great response mechanisms for mobile users, and have much potential for brands, including “trackable consumer response data, the potential to create an optimised landing page to seize consumers at the exact point of interest, offer discounts, get them signed up for an email, or tempt them into making a purchase”.
For best effect, QR codes need to grasp the public’s curiosity as opposed to the “generic, sometimes lost square code in the corner of a poster” says Kehoe. He pointed to a recent campaign Out of Home International worked on for Bristol University, with the billboard featuring a custom QR code design in the shape of The Clifton Suspension Bridge. The design became an internet sensation and generated international media coverage. Initial concerns from advertisers regarding QR codes centred on the need to download a reader – a concern that has all but disappeared as consumers discover how quick and easy they are to use.
Not requiring the scanning interaction of QR is NFC, or near-field communications, which is set to rival QR codes as more mobile devices and outdoor signage incorporate the technology. Requiring no more than a simple touch, the wireless technology allows individuals to make transactions, exchange digital content or connect with other NFC devices.
At the moment, knowledge around the technology and its potential is low, but NFC will take interaction with brands a step further by facilitating secure purchase of advertised products, with smartphone devices become ‘mobile wallets’. Brands will no longer need to rely on advertising recall as the customer will be able to purchase products instantly on the street.
Primesight’s insight director Mungo Knott explained: “The future continues to move rapidly and the next stage of this customer engagement will be the ability to transact using NFC from poster to mobile. The shop front will truly be extended as customers can purchase goods and services they see easily at the point of prompt.”
A third strand to the evolution of interactive out of home, and its most visually striking, is augmented reality. Providing a camera enhanced view of physical realworld environments with virtual elements merged to create ‘mixed reality’, augmented reality has been employed in some stunning campaigns recently, including Ford’s C-Max activity which allowed the public to interact with the car through JCDecaux’s six sheet screens and Lynx’s Fallen Angel ambush stunt in Victoria Station where commuters found themselves on vast video screens interacting with an augmented reality angel.
No stranger to the power of augmented reality is iDOOH Media MD Scott Anthony, whose company pioneers Digiadvans which have been used by clients including Calvin Klein for augmented reality campaigns. Quizzed on how important augmented reality can be to a campaign, Anthony said it is “without question going to be the interactive method used by 80% of brands to interact with their target audiences in the next 10 years”.
He added that “there is nothing more conducive to a sale than putting your product or service right in the customer’s hand,” and this can range from 3D models, to bringing brochures and marketing materials to life through video and web information. “The point here is, your mind is the only boundary.”
Anthony went on to call upon augmented reality operators to educate agencies and marketers on thepossibilities augmented reality offers, saying that in the UK we have so far “stood back and watched the brands, brand managers, agencies, certainly the AR owners and maybe, just maybe, the marketing directors in charge of brands, to see who will go first”.
He continued: “We must stop waiting for the forward- thinkers of this country to take the lead. The time has come for us to embrace AR. Work with it, test it, measure it and above all push it to its limits.”
The iDOOH Media MD also lambasted prevailing attitudes among marketers that the general UK population are “brain-dead technophobes” incapable of grasping such interaction, opining instead “the UK general public is one of the most techno-media-savvy audiences in the world” and more than ready to engage.
An unobtrusive means of engaging the public without relying on possession or knowledge of new technologies is through the flourishing concept of multi-sensory which, while still relatively underexploited, presents a real opportunity to touch all of a consumer’s senses and create meaningful and memorable engagement.
So far it has been retailers at the forefront of developing multi-sensory techniques, from fast food restaurants playing fast music to increase the speed customers eat to a debt collection agency patenting a scent which supposedly increases payment rates. Its use by advertisers is only just starting to take hold, but with 35% of US consumer brands already dipping their toes in the medium and CURB launching the UK’s first dedicated Sensory-Out-Of-Home division, things look set to change.
Nowhere is the notion of multi-sensory more appropriate than when used to advertise food, no doubt helped by the fact that eating is in itself an emotional and sensory experience. And nowhere has multi-sensory caught the public’s imagination more than its use by McCain to launch its frozen jacket potatoes.
Bringing ‘scratch-and-sniff’ into the 21st century, McCain caught the public’s imagination with its £1.4m outdoor campaign for Ready Baked Jackets where 10 bus shelters were fitted with 3D fibreglass jacket potatoes which give off heat and the aroma of spuds cooking. The shelters also dispensed money-off coupons.
Sean Meikle, managing partner on the McCain account at PHD, highlighted the level of interaction the posters enjoyed, saying that 30,000 people engaged with them and 14,000 collected coupons, while “eight potatoes have been stolen, and a kind passer-by even poured a can of beans on one”. These last two facts led Meikle to advise brands considering similar activity to set aside some production budget for spares.
McCain is by no means the only advertiser exploiting our senses, with all manner of brands attempting to get their products “literally in the hands and noses of individuals” according to Rebecca Bainbridge at Kinetic, who called scent a “powerful tool triggering emotions that can lead to a higher brand connection,” and pointed to Ralph Lauren’s 4D projection which combined a visual spectacle with the dispersion of perfume into the crowd as well as Unilever’s launch of its Radox Spa range where lift users in shopping malls were “fully immersed in the spa experience and surrounded by scented vinyls that released fragrance and sound boxes playing relaxing music”.
CURB’s head of multi-sensory innovation Prask Sutton explained that the out of home industry has been particularly guilty in the past of relying solely on visuals, but, as the technologies capable of bringing non-visual elements to advertising evolve to beam more cost-efficient and controllable, we will see advertisers adopt these cutting edge technologies to deliver content directly to the ears and noses of consumers. “We don’t live in a vacuum,” said Sutton, “we’re always surrounded by sounds and scents,” and multi-sensory offers clients the opportunity to take control of these channels of communication.
He added: “Using cutting edge technologies, sound can now be delivered through ‘activated’ materials using surface speakers, or beamed at individuals using sound showers; whilst fragrances and flavours can be conveyed to anyone from individuals at bus shelters through to entire stadia of consumers. The ability to synchronise scent delivery to audiovisuals with to-the-second accuracy has also become a reality.”
Moving away from scent, sound has been harnessed by Fendi, who transformed 6 sheets into giant speakers and projected sound showers, while Clear Channel has employed touch in its latest interactive bus shelter, as utilised by Bulmer’s for its fridge magnet game that had people creating brand phrases to send to Facebook.
And if these out of home advancements already seem far-fetched and futuristic, things are only going to get even more ‘Minority Report’, as interactive advertising and sensory suggestions are increasingly coupled with facial recognition technology, as seen in the recent Plan UK charity campaign by Clear Channel, CURB and 3D Exposure which distinguished women from men and subsequently altered the messages it displayed.
Richie Stote, head evolutioneer at CURB, explained that gender recognition is just a small part of the “gladvertising movement” which the agency is pioneering, “making use of facial and gesture recognition to enable advertisers to target their efforts to where they matter most,” so we will soon witness more and more advertising hoardings capable of determining the demographics of a viewer and tailoring ads to them accordingly.
And if we have advanced to such a point where ads can determine a viewer’s gender, age range and whether they are happy or sad, what else is in the offing for the ever-evolving out of home sector?
Here are some of the innovations we’ll see more of:
Contextual ads: tailored to a consumer’s situation - someone waiting on a delayed bus might be shown an ad for a local taxi firm, while an outbreak of rain would prompt ads for umbrellas and direct you to the closest retailer.
Gladvertising: uses facial recognition software and cameras to match facial movements to expressions including happiness, anger, sadness, fear, surprise and disgust, allowing ads to respond to consumer moods and tailor ads.
Multi-sensory: stimulating consumer senses via holographic video, sound, mood lighting and smells to multiply impact of ads.
Personal preference profiles: supercharged social network profiles 50 times more in-depth than Facebook and including details such as body shape, allergies, anniversaries and favourite food.
Phones that talk to adverts: ads identify a person via their PPP (personal preference profile) and customise accordingly.
Gesture recognition: similar to technology used in Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect, interactive, gesture-based games will set consumers physical challenges and reward them via coupons sent to their phones.
The Creative Out of Home Awards will be announced at a black tie awards ceremony in London in November 2012. Open to creative agencies, media buyer and advertisers, the awards celebrate creativity and effectiveness in out of home advertising and will present awards in categories including traditional, digital, innovation, integration and experiential. For more information on the awards, or to find out about sponsorship opportunities, contact Lynn Lester on 0141 559 6074 or email firstname.lastname@example.org