Digital out of home is growing - fast. But is it about to overtake billboards and posters altogether? The Drum speaks to agencies and buyers operating in the digital space to find out what makes DOOH so dynamic.
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The out of home medium has undergone tremendous change in recent years, with developing technologies and changing consumer behaviour making an impact on the growth of the sector. Augmented reality, interactivity and multi-sensory technologies have played their part in making out of home one of the most dynamic marketing channels. Digital outdoor advertising continued its growth in 2012, with digital outdoor revenue increasing from £31m to £52m year-on-year in the third quarter of 2012, representing 19 per cent of the total UK outdoor revenue at the quarter, which stood at £250m. In comparison to traditional out of home advertising, “digital offers a much richer experience for consumers, and consequently ever greater opportunities for advertisers to engage with them,” says James Davies, chief strategy officer at Posterscope. Is it possible that pixels are replacing paste in the world’s oldest advertising medium? The flexibility of digital, the possibilities of data feedback and enhanced consumer connections are also positive aspects of the medium – but it is the possibilities offered by real-time content that are arguably proving the most exciting in the out of home space. For the past 18 months, CBS Outdoor has been working with Time Out to bring London restaurant and theatre reviews to XTP screens throughout the London Underground. Tim Cartwright, head of digital at CBS Outdoor UK, says we can expect to see more of this type of real-time advertising, including user-generated content, in 2013. The McDonald’s Olympics campaign, for example, used the Liveposter platform to generate and serve user-generated content aggregated via Facebook to eight different digital out of home networks in real-time. Carolyn Nugent, head of digital OOH at Kinetic, says: “As a consumer, becoming part of the campaign yourself via user-generated copy, sharing photos and experiences to a wider public audience, seems to be gathering momentum as a trend.” With the trend of user-generated content becoming more ingrained in advertisers’ thinking, is the evolution of digital out of home technology keeping up with the growth of mobile to meet consumer expectations? Erika Mari, head of outdoor, Arena Media, argues that digital out of home is still quite a way behind in this regard, saying: “Currently smartphone penetration is at over 51 per cent, and a growing number of people are investing in tablets as well. However, compared with other channels, OOH often misses out on influencing consumer behaviour via these technologies.” Ocean Outdoor marketing director Richard Malton feels digital outdoor is “perfectly attuned” to the always on consumer, saying: “Digital out of home is the smart device of out of home, and campaigns will without doubt converge between large format smart devices (DOOH) and small format smart devices (tablets and phones).” Davies suggests that out of home shouldn’t be viewed as a media channel, but as “an interconnected, interdependent ecosystem of media, content, technology and experiences.” Davies explains that this incorporates all types of placements as well as posters and networked screens, and that this ‘ecosystem’ offers a huge variety of functions for advertisers. And as digital outdoor appears to behave in the same way as the connected consumer, it is perceived as more relevant, argues Neil Morris, Grand Visual founder and MD: “In terms of perception, digital outdoor is the medium most relevant to the constantly connected consumer because it is also online and connected and therefore more in sync with their own behaviours.” The measurability of digital offers it another point of difference over traditional outdoor, and the launch of the new Postar research in February is anticipated to be a step in the right direction in terms of establishing the true reach of digital out of home. JCDecaux marketing director David McEvoy explains that this will cover all outdoor environments and “place digital out of home on the same platform as TV, online and the press for the first time.” He adds: “New Postar will offer day audiences, allowing digital OOH to use its flexibility to target key audiences at different times of day.” Mari argues that because there is as yet no way of guaranteeing the number of impressions for outdoor advertising, digital out of home should not be viewed as a “silver bullet solution to measurability.” She adds: “Measurability of engagement has been significantly improved by connected digital out of home, however, this will only be meaningful once consumers’ use of the required technology grows.” So with the continued growth and development in the digital out of home sector, can we now say that pixels are replacing old-fashioned paper and paste? Well it seems that going pixel-only and employing massive LED billboards is not to everyone’s taste, as argues William Stuttard general manager at Capa Outdoor which instead uses “high-tech computer controlled 48- sheet scrollers” for its mobile billboards. “These are installed on each side of our specially designed vehicles,” he explains. “This gives the advantage of flipping between different adverts, without the high cost, and problems of powering huge LED screens in a vehicle.” Stuttard also points to taxi advertising where “tiny LEDs are integrated into vehicle wraps”, providing a happy medium between the past and future of the medium. Meanwhile, Cartwright says that digital enhances traditional campaigns: “The investment into screen technology has been important for the sector and the UK footprint of digital screens now allow for an increased national presence. “Traditional poster sites will always play an important part in outdoor advertising with over 30 million people having seen an ad on the outside of a bus in the last week (source TGI), but digital will certainly complement and enhance a poster campaign.” According to Nugent, digital is “not replacing paper and paste, but enhancing the medium and its breadth.” “The flexibility and immediacy of digital OOH is attracting new advertisers to the medium, and the investment from media owners means that these sorts of campaigns are now possible in more environments. The outlook for OOH, whether traditional or digital, is looking strong.”