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Experience the great outdoors: an argument for more interactive OOH

Marmite’s explosive out-of-home ads, created by Adam&EveDDB

Despite lockdown after lockdown, out-of-home (OOH) still found itself at the center of adland chatter and general hurrah. But what is it about experiential OOH that hits the spot? As part of The Drum’s Experiential Marketing Deep Dive, we quiz OOH specialists and round up some of the best examples along the way.

Thanks to the digital age – and despite Covid – out-of-home marketing is experiencing a renaissance. A medium that packs a punch for passers-by while also capturing attention miles away from the sidewalk, savvy creatives have been perfecting the art of creating innovative, bold OOH for an attention-deficit world.

“OOH should be a simple, quick to grasp medium, able to conjure up an instant emotive reaction,” explains Joao Medeiros, the executive creative director at Havas who this year helped create an immersive swimming pool for Adidas that encouraged women in Dubai to take up swimming. “Now, if one adds an experimental and interactive element to that, you get some powerful engagement.”

Since its inception OOH was a very much ‘in-situ’ medium, but by virtue of the digital age most people now interact with it online. “OOH is no longer just paper and paste,” insists James Cross, the BBC creative director behind its most lauded and recognizable OOH work, from Killing Eve to Dracula and A Perfect Planet. ”It’s a massive PR opportunity.”

He argues that because it’s such a simple medium, good OOH becomes a meme. “The coverage and shares of our billboards for Dracula and Perfect Planet still appear to this today, long after the campaigns have ended,” he says. “On social, OOH is a very simple way to show good marketing and clever ideas, without anyone needing to watch a 30-second film or read an ad.”

For Ben Gardiner, the creative solutions director at Talon Outdoor, the internet and social media has and hasn’t changed the way we interact with OOH. “For some simple stand-out creative ideas, such as Dracula or Marmite, you’ve got that simple idea that can be translated in a single image that encapsulates the entire creative execution,” he explains. “We’ve got better at making those creative ideas really work hard on social media and in the press – and there seems to be more desire from clients for those simple but brilliant creative executions.”

On the flip side, he argues that the ways people interact with and experience OOH hasn’t massively changed, pointing to Talon’s recent project for Nissan Qashqai. “Of course, there was an element of the strategy that considers how the execution could be used to create great social content, however it’s still fundamentally about the experience on the ground,” he says. “You don’t need to have an online or social presence to enjoy, interact or understand that experience.”

The pandemic hit ad spend across all mediums, including OOH, but after a fallow year it is returning. So what lessons were learned during the pandemic?

“Words like ‘nimble’, ‘agile’ and ‘reactive’ all feature in pretty much every deck coming out of every agency right now,” says Claire Kimber, group innovation director at Posterscope UK. “And yes, it’s true, we all had to figure out how to be all these things at a super-accelerated pace, especially in OOH. But I think the single most important thing we learned is how creative thinking is fundamental to progression. Not just in the sense of building brilliant creative solutions, which we also did, but we had to problem-solve and innovate like never before.”

As creatives develop new ways to make OOH more experiential, which innovations and developments are the next big thing? “Ideas that break the limitations and expectations of the medium are the ones that take it forward,” argues Fabio Silveira, general manager at Havas Creative UEA.

“Going from a specific physical placement to gaining the social media space, generating engagement, earning media and becoming a conversation point thousands of miles away – that’s not the result of merely technological innovations, but a reflection of the best utilization of them in the service of a creative angle.”

Gardiner believes that as technology evolves it is becoming much easier to create large-scale experiences. “Powerful PCs can fit into much smaller spaces, software is much more capable and artificial intelligence has come a long way, meaning we are more capable to produce experiences that can adapt across environments, meaning less on/off stunts, and offering more scalable solutions for advertisers in the digital space.”

He says, from a creative execution perspective, that one element he enjoys is looking at the marriage of mediums. “Bringing together more traditional techniques and exciting new elements to really amplify creative ideas. Taking the best of two very different worlds to create something that is better than the sum of its parts. I think a great example of that would be what we did recently for BBC Glow Up.”

Cross says the ability to do more than paper and paste is really exciting: “Special builds, moving images, specific messages for the location, or simply the opportunity to alter a message instantly on digital sites makes the medium more relevant than ever.”

He points out how at the Euros, when one of the UK’s home nations won or lost a game, creatives could alter their sites for a celebration or commiseration message at the sounding of the final whistle. “Sadly our plans for England winning the Euros never saw the light of day – this year, at least this year.”

And then, says Cross, there is new human/machine interfaces, such as neurotech and mid-air haptics, creative techniques such as 3D anamorphic display, holographic technologies and the integration of AR with posters. There’s much to be excited about in the world of OOH experiences.

From festivals to retail installations to unmissable activations, we examine the avenues open to marketers to reach consumers enjoying their newfound freedom in The Drum’s Experiential Deep Dive.

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