It's all about 'data, data, data' in out of home advertising says Maxus creative director

Jen Smith on digital changing the way it informs the creative message

As data is increasingly being used to inform out of home campaigns, digital is making small leaps in terms of the way it is bought — and changing in respect of its capabilities to help inform the creative message.

Jen Smith, global creative director at Maxus spoke to The Drum ahead of her appointment as a judge for the Creative Out Of Home Awards on how data trends are invigorating the out-of-home (OOH) industry and the prospects of location tracking when it comes to balancing out the ethics.

What do you think the key trends are right now?

Data, data, data! Everybody is excited about all the data feeds that can now feed into out-of-home posters. Everyone is excited by what is possible with data, programmatically via their outdoor campaign.

For Maxus, technology and data sits at the heart of the agency. We restructured the agency just over a year ago to make sure that our technology, effectiveness and data (TED) team function sat in the centre of the agency. Our new chief strategy officer, was our previous head of TED. That is a big statement of intent in terms of where we think the centre of gravity lies for the industry at a whole, to make sure that is built into everything.

How is location tracking changing OOH?

There needs to be a balance between what is possible versus what you should do. I still think there is a danger of doing things because we can and not doing things because they're actually good and solve the brands/consumers problem. I'm not saying it will never get there, but I have yet to see an example of where it really answers a human need as opposed to 'we can now do this, therefore we should.'

How are professionals reacting to OOH right now?

Everybody still likes a poster. It's still a great way to grab the audience’s attention and to be noticed/recognised.

Recently, at Maxus we had a creativity week where we got some poster space to promote ourselves to ourselves. Seeing as we only bought 10 posters around London, the number of emails that I got from people in taxis or leaving Heathrow Airport who asked about our creativity week being placed on a 96 sheet proves that it works. It gets people talking and makes you feel grand to see yourself up on that site.

Can traditional OOH and digital work alongside each other?

In terms of the role for each channel and client, there will be some people who need to be seen in which case paper and paste is still a great medium to get national coverage of your message to a broadcast number of people. That will rely on the creative agency's ability and craft in creating a beautiful and interesting message.

For a media institute, it is the building of those capabilities of data that can help us inform the creative output — for example, what is the message and how are we going to communicate it? We understand how these things can work and how you can adapt it in relation to the campaign that you are working on.

How is digital changing OOH?

Digital hasn't changed a lot right now. However, it is changing the way we buy it. Everyone is talking about optimisation and windows of opportunity. So, they are using it to buy exposure in an interesting and more effective/efficient way.

Where I think it will change it is when we really start to get to grips with how all of those data feeds and the capabilities that we have can start to inform the creative message. Therefore, informing the role that it should play in a wider communications mix and not just the channel you put on a plan to optimise your reach.

When we start to play with digital a bit more and seeing what it is capable of, then it can change the industry. Right now, I think they are still posters bought in a new way.

What has Maxus been doing that is innovative this year?

We are very pleased with the OOH work that we've done with The Body Shop to create bus stops for their anti-pollution skincare range. We created bus stops that take the pollution out of the air and pump out good clean air out the other side. The Body Shop is an activist brand, you can't just say it, you have to do it. There is a lot of technology that exists that captures pollution and turns things black but, for u,s we wanted to find solutions that did in some part, go a way to solving the problem itself. It was a good use of OOH in creating a solution with technology that didn't exist before.

What is some of the best work you have seen in OOH?

The work that British Airways have done with the 'Look Up' posters was brilliant. That's really understanding the data that can now be put into these big screens and how that can then inform creative ideas.

The work that Age UK did with their message that no one, should have no one. Their idea of taking that message and using everything in a localised level in a way that has tangible results, was fantastic. They could demonstrate that by doing this, not only did they get more people donating their time but they also got more people requesting help. It proved from both sides that the posters worked as it reached people who wanted to help but they also reached people who were lonely.

Smith is a judge for the upcoming Creative Out Of Home Awards. OOH continues to be one of the most effective forms of advertising, which continues to deliver impressive results for brands and agencies.

The judging will take place on Wednesday 27 September, with nominations announced on Friday 13 October.

Danielle Gibson

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