Beacons BBC The Drum Awards

WCRS director of technology and innovation on out of home advertising and how AR has changed the playing field


By Dani Gibson, Senior Writer

August 9, 2017 | 8 min read

Out of home (OOH) advertising has been making fast changes and progress over the past few years, especially in the digital space but according to director of technology and innovation at WCRS, Dino Burbidge, there is still space for traditional OOH. Digital is boundless but it is overly misused and sometimes paper and paste get the job done.


Dino Burbidge on out of home advertising and how AR has changed the playing field.

Talking to The Drum ahead of his appointment as a judge for the Creative Out Of Home Awards 2017, Burbidge speaks candidly about OOH and how augmented reality (AR) has changed the playing field.

What has been the most innovative thing you have seen from the industry this year?

What has really impressed me is augmented reality. It is fundamentally going to change the game and that is something I rarely say.

As an example, developers have taken Apple's ARkit and recreated the Ah-Ha Take on Me music video and that was brilliant. Essentially you look through your camera and augment the singer into your world through the camera. AR may start to challenge out of home in their own back yard.

Imagine in 10 years’ time when nobody is really looking through their eyes anymore because they have augmented eyes. All of a sudden you don't need a billboard anymore because the advert can be mapped onto a building. You're looking through a camera and augmenting adverts around you. So, in 20 years’ time, media owners who have a big square attached to a building might just seem a bit weird.

What do you think are the key trends right now?

I am seeing a resurgence in effort from creatives to look at the location of a billboard. But it’s happening in hotspots. Many creatives have become used to writing a big line in their ad and make it fit every billboard. Whereas I'm seeing some interesting examples like the one from BBC World Service who did a really good one in America. It was about seeing both sides of the story and therefore they only put their billboards on corner placements so it had two sides to it. They were using the location to benefit the message.

I think mobile interaction is really interesting. OOH can be very much a passive thing. You see it and you walk away. Whereas if you interact with a mobile you can not only control the screen but also an advertiser has the possibly give you something on your phone that you walk away with. So, it's not a simple transient experience anymore. It helps that we’re seeing the majority of screens becoming internet connected.

How is location tracking and beacons changing OOH?

Quite frankly they're not. Beacons are only useful in very small cases. I think they are the big white hope that didn't deliver. They only work if you have an app that can talk to the beacon. Therefore, if you are an Asda customer and you walk past the screen outside Asda then your app can do something, but for everybody else it's useless.

Where it will become interesting is the new version of the Apple iOS. It has indoor mapping so you can now go onto Apple Maps and it can map somewhere like Gatwick Airport and tell you where all the shops are. It does that through Wi-Fi beacons but only because Apple Maps can read them. I think it will become useful, but beacons specifically, as an agency, we have never needed to use them and they are only a very closed loop experience.

What is the current mood of the industry?

I think it's really exciting because nobody knows what is possible and that's the sort of mood I felt when Flash first came along in the industry. The internet was boring, then along came Flash and it attracted creative people and all of a sudden, they started to question things, break things and make awesome things happen.

Nobody quite knows whether you should be tracking somebody's phone, taking pictures of them in the street and making them the centre of the billboard, making the billboards move or have them augmented with light projections. Nobody quite knows how exciting it should really be.

Where do you see the industry going in the next 12 months?

A lot of the big media owners are updating their screens with internet connections and so on, but they still have the same people or structures in place and don't know what to do with them. Where I see OOH going in the next year is people getting their head around the possibilities or getting the right people in to make those choices for them. Right now, it’s a very male dominated industry (many of us have grey hair too) and that's a diversity problem.

How is digital changing OOH?

Paper and paste is still brilliant for certain things if you don't want it to change and you need it to be low cost, needs no energy and is very environmentally safe. It's the carpet bombing of advertising, you need to know it's there.

Digital is great but it is underused. So, when we say digital, what a lot of people do is still deliver the same printout but they just deliver it as a JPEG and it sits there on a big digital screen and it doesn't move.

I don't think the creative agencies have really caught up yet with what the possibilities are. You have someone like Clear Channel and Ocean Outdoor putting amazing screens in everywhere, spending a lot of money doing that and then we are essentially delivering creative that doesn't take full advantage of it.

The main thing about digitisation at the moment, is anything is possible but I don't think anybody really has the time to engage with it. That has to change.

As a judge for The Drum Creative Out Of Home Awards 2017, what do you want to see from the entries this year?

Simplicity. Agencies can tend to put their practical brain away when they come up with ideas. I want to see people using the location sympathetically and use it with a mischievous twinkle. It needs to tell a beautiful story and make people stop and look at it. I also want to see something commercial. I think too many charities get though because they have less KPIs to worry about. I want to see a beautifully executed commercial project, that you can say was brave and brilliant.

How important do you think these are awards are to the industry?

It crosses the boundary between advertising and creative and OOH which is a different world altogether. We never interact with media owners and OOH is something that is part of what we do. So The Drum getting involved joins the gap.

Burbidge is a judge for The Drum Creative Out Of Home Awards. The deadline for entries is Friday 11 August. Do you think your company has what it takes to win?

Entries are open to all advertising agencies, design consultancies, digital agencies, direct mail companies, production companies, marketing agencies, PR consultancies, in-house creative teams, in-house marketing teams, media owners and media buying agencies that are based around the globe and can enter international work.

The awards are sponsored by KBH On-Train Media, Tint, The Drum’s RAR and The Drum Network.

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