By Jenni Baker | Senior Editor

November 29, 2022 | 7 min read

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Ahead of The Drum Awards for OOH 2022 in association with Alight Media, The Drum sat down with Matthew Dearden, CEO of Alight Media, to discuss exciting developments in the space and what’s on the screens for OOH in 2023 and beyond.

Find out the winners at The Drum's OOH Awards on December 6

Find out the OOH winners at The Drum's Awards Festival on December 6

The out-of-home (OOH) sector is booming, with +31.5% growth in the UK alone during 2022. As one of the biggest canvases for advertisers to share big ideas – on paper or digital screens – its impact on getting into the mind, the memory and the heart of the consumer can’t be underestimated.

With great creative power comes great performance. As technology improves, data is fast becoming the secret sauce OOH advertisers have been waiting to unlock to take one of the oldest media channels in the playbook to new heights on the promise of greater impact and stronger results.

As a former CMO, Alight Media’s chief executive officer Matthew Dearden can appreciate the power of being able to combine digital smart data across all media – when context is key. He says: “Being able to apply digital smart data that’s respectful of consumers at a time when a lot of people are going through a tougher economy is a good way for brands to engage in an appropriate way.”

Making your data work smarter

The industry is seeing a real change in the scale and the way that it delivers digital advertising – notably with the rise of programmatic OOH which is giving advertisers a liberating way to use the medium to build their business better, says Dearden.

“It’s one of those things in OOH that we’ve been saying for nearly a decade – maybe next year, maybe the year after. We’re just on the cusp of that reality coming to bite, because we’re at a point where media owners and agencies at scale already have the technology to be able to do it and there are different tech vendors that can make it happen.”

But ultimately, Dearden warns, like any high growth part of the media industry, we must be careful not to simply jump on the bandwagon in a bid to be the first to do something – but to carefully consider where programmatic OOH fits into the mix. We should use this as an opportunity to do something different and bring in a smarter, more timely way to use data and upshift the plan.

“Some of the new tech vendors are really powerful in enabling better, smarter campaigns – sometimes about real-time buying, often about integrating different data sources and more sophisticated planning. But it isn’t about simply taking what was done before, copying and pasting it into a new tech stack and paying somebody a new tech tax,” he says. “It’s about making the advertising work hard for the client and bringing together time- and location-flexible, data-driven buying which gives brands a whole new power to build themselves in the OOH medium.”

Brand vs demand

Media has digitized but fundamental consumer and human needs haven’t changed. “We’re still in a position where brands have to establish themselves as having a clear offering, being desirable and something that consumers are predisposed to interact with, and then we need to turn that predisposition into actual demand and buying products,” said Dearden. “The linear flow through the funnel might be dead, but the concept of winning hearts and minds and turning that into action continues to apply.”

When a consumer sees a powerful ad, they don’t think of it as a brand ad or a demand ad. Their natural instinct is to see an ad and want to get out their phone and find out more about the brand or product. That’s why, Dearden argues, marketers must not lose sight of getting the creative right.

“I’m a huge fan of demand harvesting but I think there’s a danger that we just become so focused on short-term performance that we forget that marketers and agencies are here to build brands for the long-term,” he says. “As a former CMO, I know that one of the hardest parts of the job is getting the creative right. You’ve got to maintain that full mix.”

So, what’s on the cards next as we move into 2023? A continued focus on environmental responsibility, a shift in the nature of the size of advertisers using OOH, growing and new audiences, and the assets to deliver those audiences. As digital moves into new places, the opportunities for brands to engage with people outside the home and reach new audiences in OOH will be unique.

For more on what’s next for OOH, watch the video interview with Matthew Dearden above. And tune in to find out the 2022 OOH winners during The Drum’s Awards Festival on December 6.

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Alight Media

Alight Media is the fastest growing UK out-of-home media owner, challenging for a brighter out-of-home. We believe in providing advertisers with true national reach, by bringing previously overlooked areas to light. Our estate combines high quality digital screens, with true flexibility for brands, alongside the proven strength of classic formats.

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