Cyberville: how outdoor and experiential are helping build smart cities of the future

Cyberville: how outdoor and experiential are helping build smart cities of the future

Even just a few short years ago, outdoor (or Out-Of-Home/OOH) was seen as the last box to tick on a media plan. Static and more often than not, a rehash of a print ad.

Today, it has the capability to be as dynamic and creative as the content we see on our screens at home, not unlike The Daily Prophet from the wizarding world of Harry Potter and Hogwarts and its magical front pages. This digital transformation has boosted OOH with the capacity to create a shared experience, as well communicate a brand or product message at scale, bringing it inextricably closer to experiential marketing – and in turn, form a powerful duo for brands and businesses.

But according to the OOH & experiential marketing panel at The Drum Future of Marketing conference, advertisers are still a long way off from taking full advantage of its potential.

“We still see around only 20% of screens that have full motion capabilities, actually using full motion creative” said Sophie Pemberton, strategy director at Talon Outdoor. “Which is frustrating when you see that a creative agency has just retrofitted a press ad for out of home. They are consumed differently and should be treated differently.”

There is still work to be done in educating clients to use digital more flexibly, and with creative agencies to educate what sites can support full motion.

For example – motion isn’t allowed on roadside sites because it’s a distraction to drivers and therefore, can be dangerous. Shopping malls and train stations however, where people are actively looking to be distracted are, according the panel, still being underutilized, explained Clear Channel UK creative director, Louise Stubbings.

“Where we are working more on now is how can you be creative in the way we plan,” said Pemberton. “Lots of creativity goes into the back end. We want to plan in a creative way to make sure we're reaching more of the right people, because it's important that we make sure that advertisers are getting the most from their money.”

If OOH is morphing into an extension of experiential, what does that mean for the specialists in the field? Is collaboration possible?

According to Toby Havord, experiential account director at Identity, while these two channels are coming together much more today, there is still work to be done for the experience to be seamless. “In the old days of mass sampling, you could only speak to people one on one, and you didn't know as much about the context and environment leading up to your event. Now, you have access to more data than ever, which can track the journey much further - before, during and after the event or experience. Which is the biggest change from the last five years, and which has led to OOH and experiential naturally joining forces.”

“But there is still a challenge in using all this information and data in the most effective - and compliant - way. Which is why experiential, and OOH often still get split into buckets. But there is opportunity when brands succeed in combining the two, to make a creative idea work harder.” he continued.

Take shopping malls as an example, where there might be experiential activity going on that contradicts the advertising around it, creating a jarring moment for the consumer. “There is a huge opportunity to take advantage of the full consumer journey, in a closed and engaged environment. The combination of outdoor and experiential, in that instance, can be very powerful,” said Stubbings.

Just earlier this year, it was no surprise that the tech giants, primarily Google, announced a move into OOH. Is this an opportunity or a threat to agencies working in this space?

According to Pemberton, it’s a bit of both. “Something is happening in OOH at the moment – the huge opportunity for creativity but also the confusion over whether we are programmatic, are we digital, are we trying to separate ourselves, are we experiential… - the technology that is being built behind it will enable us to work more collaboratively with other channels but we still need to keep a focus on what we do best - which is build brands.”

“One of the interesting things about OOH from a broader advertising perspective, is that there has been such a trend towards direct response but OOH has remained incredibly resilient as a brand media whereas other channels, such as press, have been in decline,” added Alice Pickthall, research analyst at Ender Analysis. “OOH has consistently shown that it has visibility and scale. And compared to online, has enabled a much safer environment for brands to operate in.”

If OOH and experiential are set to join forces and with innovations like pollution eating billboards and edible playgrounds (which teach children about growing and eating healthy food) from Clear Channel on the horizon - are they set to play an even bigger role in the development and structure of smart cities?

“We are very focused on the role we play in the community we exist in,” said Stubbings. “We are responsible for maintaining bus shelters, we have worked to replace unused phone boxes with trees and we are forming a plan to create edible playgrounds next year, all because we want to improve the landscape, and the community.

“Everything we do going forward, will have a use, or enhance the local area. If you have that as your standpoint from an outdoor perspective, it isn't just powerful advertising, but it's the right thing to do. It's improving the life of people around us which is essentially what smart cities is about.”

The Drum Future of Marketing took place on 22 November at The Crystal in London. To register you interest for 2019, click here.

Identity are a sponsor of this event.

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