Cities today are now more exciting to live in than ever before, with emerging technologies that promise to make urban life easier, less stressful, more equitable and filled with possibility. Over the next decade and beyond, our future cities will be shaped by virtual and mixed reality, artificial intelligence, high-speed internet, autonomous vehicles and the Internet of Things (IoT), which will influence our interactions and behaviors, as well as pose opportunities for brands.
Innovations that were once only possible online are now manifesting in the physical streetscapes of cities themselves. While excitement for this new digital era is at an all-time high, there’s a separate revolution taking place right before our eyes that has been working alongside these emerging technology trends and, in some cases enabling them: the Quiet Movement of out-of-home.
Once thought of as highway billboards and static signage, out-of-home advertising (OOH) is experiencing a renaissance, now more closely associated with new digital platforms that can change the entire advertising landscape. The truth is, OOH has been at the edges of innovation for years.
As a society, we have spent the last 15 years obsessing over online innovations, social media and our mobile devices, while OOH was relegated to the backburner. OOH campaigns were seen as anachronistic, one-dimensional and lacking value for consumers. More recently, however, the industry has quietly been transforming itself through technology and data, as well as through delivering genuine public service at scale, taking cues and innovating upon what has gone before it online.
As digital OOH displays proliferate throughout cities, the cities themselves are not only becoming a part of the digital economy but also fueling a digital conversation with citizens and organizations. Digital displays that can deliver transit statuses on train delays and emergency information during crises, such as hurricanes or flood warnings—in real-time and based on location—are inherently more intelligent and more responsive than paper signs glued to a wall. Brands are also funding municipal bike programs across the world, such as Citi Bike in New York and Santander Cycles in London, adding new inventory to OOH’s already diverse offerings.
As our cities become more sophisticated and populated, and as our data demands skyrocket, OOH is emerging as an unlikely, yet highly valuable tool to keep us connected through high-speed Wi-Fi capabilities and small cells that are attached to billboards to improve connectivity and cellular coverage in dense urban areas. Google has run OOH campaigns that display maps, wayfinding and geo-targeted real-time content that has genuine utility to the drivers and pedestrians who see it. In Hong Kong, an OOH company used DNA phenotyping to display likenesses of people who have littered on billboards throughout the city to make people think twice about throwing their trash on the ground. There are even urinals that encourage cleanliness by creating digital games that are aimed at improving pee accuracy, sponsored by brands.
It’s everywhere. The Quiet Movement is no longer quiet, with brands front and center as digital experiences extend beyond our devices and into the physical world. With the growing number of digital displays on our streets that are responsibly and intelligently aggregating and analyzing data to improve the world around us, OOH will have an increasingly important role to play as the source of this new data, and the channel through which to innovate on top of it. As we approach universal connectivity in cars, what new role will OOH play in providing a fully responsive network of signage to help make driving safer and the user’s time more productive, even entertaining? Ultimately, new forms of OOH will help foster a more responsive city that allows for dynamic campaigns, meaningful messaging and the best user experiences across the board.
Dave Etherington is chief strategy officer at Intersection