A constant bombardment. From the outside of taxis, trains, and tubes. On the insides too. Roadside posters, shop fronts and bus-backs. On a lunchtime stroll for inspiration from the office, there is no escaping the hundreds of messages positioned in unavoidably prime locations. All jockeying for position.
Unfortunately, this particular lunchtime, apart from the sheer number of brands attempting to shout their message across the busy street, there is little to inspire.
With the average adult taking in more than 1300 commercial messages every day the mix is becoming a might muddled, with outdoor advertising being one of the most saturated areas of communication.
This in mind, it is prudent that any communication is planned to gain maximum exposure, cutting through the babble to reach the intended audience.
However, the problem for advertisers does not stop there. Monitoring the impact that the plethora of advertising has on the consumer can be just as important. One, increasingly more common, way to gauge the effectiveness of a campaign is to build in drivers for response.
“When, on average, a consumer on the move has around five seconds to take in a poster message, it’s hard to argue that there’s scope to convey much more than just a really strong branding message,” says Steve Cox, strategic planning director, Viacom Outdoor. “However, where poster dwell-time is longer, such as on an underground platform, or inside a bus, or even when stuck in traffic behind a bus, then a more detailed message, complete with response mechanism, can indeed be effectively conveyed.
“Furthermore, there’s some evidence that outdoor is a great ‘indirect response’ medium, in that it can drive significant uplift in more traditional response media such as door drops or inserts when used as part of a multi-media schedule. Of course, the challenge here becomes to measure the effect of the outdoor when consumers claim they’ve responded solely as a result of the door drop.
He continues: “Traditional posters don’t really ‘interact’ with consumers on the move in a literal sense, although great creativity will draw the viewer in to the poster just as it will in any medium. However, the medium is currently experiencing a period of extraordinary growth and innovation, much of it focused around the introduction of new digital formats. Bluetooth interactivity can be offered on selected poster sites, and bus shelters with voting panels, sound, smell and 3D graphics are now increasingly common. This kind of innovation cannot help but drive interactivity still further.”
As screen and infra-red technology has developed so too have the opportunities for Outdoor, says David McEvoy, marketing director at JCDecaux.
“Clients are using the new techniques to bring their brands to life on the streets with spectacular results.
“An example of this was when JCDecaux’s Opinionator was used nationwide in October 2004 to ask people to vote for their favourite film Alien versus Predator by using touch sensitive buttons.”
The bus shelter site in Jamaica Road, Glasgow proved a hit – delivering the highest number of votes out of all the bus shelters in the UK, showing Scottish audiences willingness to engage in interaction.
For Charlie And The Chocolate Factory real sweets were dispensed from a bus shelter ad panel and in 2005 ads for the film Goal encouraged people to use their mobile phones to enter a competition to win a part as an extra in the film.
Interacting with audiences isn’t only about using ‘specials’, continues McEvoy: “The best interaction means reaching the right audience at the right time in the right location.”
“Outdoor advertising is more response driven than ever,” argues Mark Evans, managing director, Kommando. “Through connection to portable mobile devices by Bluetooth technology detailed reports, listing the number of contacts and downloads and even the make and model of the phone connected with can now be provided. The latest units can transfer vouchers for redemption at POS, games and video content. What’s more, all of this can be permission-based.
“Other response drivers are through monitored sampling and face-to-face campaigns using a portable media solution such as Pixman (digital screens) and Skoota media. Both allow highly-trained brand ambassadors to exchange marketing or branded products to targeted consumers. We use the very latest video tracking and satellite systems to ensure that the issues of double sampling and poor consistency are eliminated and therefore we can add more accountability into our sampling exchanges.
“The Skootas allow Kommando to transmit by hyperkast and exchange samples from specialised units attached to the adverting trailers. We also use hand held data capture units to extend the contact value with the consumer and the data is the perfect solution to enrich database and CRM systems. The success of the campaign can be monitored by the quantity and quality of data trawled.
“Relevance is the most important factor in outdoor advertising... it is the holy grail of marketing.
“We live in a fast moving world and it stands to reason that the consumer will be looking for innovative media solutions in order to connect and engage positively. So to stay relevant, you have to target your message with precision.”
“You could probably say that the days of the traditional paste and paper billboards, to a certain extent, are numbered,” says PosterPlus director Gavin Hollywood. “Technology and innovation can really make outdoor stand out a little bit more.
“As any medium of communication, outdoor advertising has to constantly innovate and look at ways of increasing the presentation of its formats.”
But as well as innovation, the location of an advert is paramount, continues Hollywood. “We ran a promotion for Scottish Citylink in which they only used inflatable bill-boards. We toured 14 different university campuses promoting 20 per cent off student travel, with students registering online to get the student card. We started in Aberdeen and went to Dundee, Perth, Glasgow and Edinburgh. You could monitor the online registrations in each location.
“Advertising is now just part of daily life. People are now spending more time outdoors and advertisers need to be able to get to that mobile audience in the most appropriate way.”
It’s perhaps a misconception to say there is no ‘editorial context’ with poster advertising. The same poster will communicate differently depending on where it’s displayed. A supermarket provides an editorial context, just as Edinburgh’s Haymarket station does. What a consumer is doing influences their frame of mind and this, in turn, will impinge on what they take from the displayed advertising.
“Where the advert is and what situation the audience is in at any given time is important,” says Phil Varley of Pedicabs.
“If a person is sitting on a train staring at an advert for an hour then they can’t miss it - it’s a welcome distraction. If they’re seeing the same banner on the way to work every day then they can’t miss that either, but they might ignore it. It depends on situation and circumstance.”
“The position of an advert is absolutely crucial,” agrees Clear Channel’s marketing director Pip Hainsworth. “For this reason, we have challenged the industry, which has traditionally sold in large, unwieldy packages, by allowing advertisers to choose panels in proximity to their audience and their point of purchase. In order to do so, we have labelled each of our panels according to their locations.
“We can also design bespoke campaigns to identify the high-indexing postcodes of a brand’s target audience, and select panels in those areas. The sophisticated segmentation system defines people by lifestyle and behavioural variables, as well as socio-demographic groups.
“We offer bespoke solutions according to the objectives and target audience. For instance, we can surround football stadiums to target fans on their way to and from matches, when they are with their mates and in a certain mindset; we can offer packages for the Edinburgh festival, or for gigs in Glasgow such as Indian Summer, which are ideal for music, drinks, and fashion brands; we can advertise films near cinemas, high streets, shopping and leisure centres, to reach people when they are most receptive to the message.”
Location-based can be made even more effective still if the creative has been tailored for a specific site, continues Craig Rossiter of Adtech DSN.
“If a specific advert is created with its environment in mind then it can be a great deal more powerful and effective,” he says. “And in a busy market place, it’s imperative that the message is delivered in a dynamic fashion, especially when you are targeting a media savvy audience.
“It’s very important that innovation is maintained and nurtured. Outdoor advertising isn’t reaching saturation, as it’s not given the chance. It’s constantly moving. Traditional media is being replaced by other innovative medias. Spend is being redirected, so it’s important to stay innovative.”
Keith Lammie of Primesight agrees: “The design of an advert within a specific environment can make a massive difference. A fantastic example of this was when Scottish National Blood Transfusion booked some media on the Subway, which was designed in the format of a route map. However each station on the map was the name of a Glasgow hospital including Southern General, Gartnavel and Royal Infirmary.
“The outdoor industry is continuing to evolve and advertisers love the chance to do something new and creative. However it shouldn't be forgotten that the vast majority of budgets are still spent on traditional formats such as 6-sheets and 48-sheets. These products continue to evolve with better illumination and better print technology as the industry invests in plant and location.
“Great creative is what is required - creatives need to create ads for outdoor not just take a press add and blow it up. But it is important for contractors to provide great, well maintained sites too.
“The first job of a poster is to deliver a message. If we can go a stage further by opening up two-way communication this can further develop the relationship between the brand and their audience.”
Karen Olsen of Mobile Media, says: “To test the effectiveness of our media offering, we had a campaign measured using a fictional brand of dog food called Boomerang. Awareness recall was over 32 percent. Of course only a percentage of advertising reaches its target. But outdoor ads have the lowest ad avoidance of all media
“The human brain filters information all the time. It chooses what to ignore and what to concentrate on. The ability to file, or discard information is what makes us superior to animals. People often choose to look at advertising.”
“Innovation is critical to both advertisers and media owners to ‘cut through the swamp of sameness’ that might otherwise cause them to pass unnoticed,” adds Cox. “There’s a lot of advertising out there, and consumers are increasingly able and empowered to edit it out. Innovative poster formats that surprise and engage will help lift the message they carry out of this swamp. In addition, placing these formats in appropriate locations can further amplify this engagement. Outdoor used to be thought of as the “last broadcast medium” – greater innovation and interactivity ought to help it move more towards becoming the “broadest narrowcast medium”, captivating those that see it to engage in real dialogue.”