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Creative ROI ambition - the way forward for DOOH

Google dynamic OOH in London EC1.

The first ever dynamically updated DOOH campaign to run in the UK was delivered a full ten years ago for Nokia. We worked with Wieden+Kennedy in the UK on a campaign to launch the Nokia N97 handset. This highly anticipated phone came with Facebook and Reuters apps installed.

In 2009 that was pretty ground-breaking and, of course, the idea was to promote just how connected the handset was. The core message was ‘Online as it happens’ and the DOOH creative pulled live feeds to demonstrate that. At the time, Nokia UK head of brands Fiona Bosman said, “We wanted to bring the N97’s live internet feeds to life, and the medium we chose did that.”

From those modest beginnings the practice of using dynamic creative grew quickly. At Grand Visual the delivery of dynamic campaigns became a core part of our services and we even built the OpenLoop ad server to systemise and automate many of the processes involved in dynamic creative optimisation.

Within a few years people were estimating that about 5% of the campaigns running on DOOH networks in the UK were dynamic. Major OOH advertisers seemed to be embracing this digital behaviour to make the most of the growing array of high-quality digital formats across the UK - and while the UK was seen as the leader, dynamic campaigns were appearing across many other markets. Just from the Grand Visual annals I can recall campaigns across all advertiser categories from brands like Nike, Sky, Heineken, Audi, Camelot, Waitrose, Virgin Trains, McDonalds, and Google amongst many others.

At the same time as brands experimented with dynamically optimised creative, the spend on digital in OOH media in the UK was growing at great pace - from £182m in 2012, to £603m in 2018. Some fag packet maths suggests that if dynamic campaigns had tracked that growth rate, we would now have 15%+ of the campaigns in the UK as dynamic and contextual.

Here is where we need to wake up and smell the coffee. Grand Visual’s dynamic output has not increased at that rate in the UK. And I know that I do not see anything like that number of dynamic campaigns whilst out and about. In fact, I’d suggest that dynamic campaigns are few and far between and the DOOH channel has probably gone backwards in terms of the adoption of smarter, data driven, dynamic creative.

The major media owners in the UK back this view up. They have confirmed that the number of campaigns featuring dynamic creative is pretty much flat year on year.

This seems strange. There have been studies in the last few years that point very clearly to the increased effectiveness of utilising dynamic creative. For instance, research by Talon Outdoor showed that campaigns featuring contextual creative deliver a +49% boost to overall effectiveness. Looking in more detail shows that action, sales, consideration, awareness, perception improve by +30% with +44% score for driving behavioural change.

So, there is a very strong argument that dynamic and contextual messaging delivers significant return on digital OOH media spend. In fact, if you are not utilising context in your creative you are severely hindering your communication effectiveness and investment.

Putting it in context

So, what’s going on? Where has the excitement and innovation and true digital behaviour gone?

The answer probably lies in the combination of a couple of factors. Firstly, I think that most brands who have considered and implemented the use of contextual creative have done so as part of a “test and learn” programme or in an ad hoc way. In other words, they are not particularly considering the effectiveness return and rather looking to do something novel - the “bright & shiny” effect. This test and learn mode has not transitioned to a standard way of operating.

Secondly, the last two years have been swamped by the noise generated around “programmatic” OOH media buying. The level of hype, headlines and hearsay surrounding Programmatic DOOH would drown out any other debate. And dynamic creative optimisation is definitely playing second fiddle at the moment.

How do we get DCO for digital OOH back into the conversation? I think we have to challenge brands and agencies with the overwhelming effectiveness story. Dynamic, contextual creative is not a one-off behaviour. It’s not just for awards reels. It can have a hugely significant effect on the bottom line. The question is “why wouldn’t you behave this way”?

On top of that we have far greater audience intelligence becoming available in the market and this will drive more sophisticated media planning. The ability to act on that audience intelligence will one day be facilitated by programmatic buying (apologies for adding to the frenzy). Dynamically optimised creative goes hand in hand with better audience targeting and programmatic trading, making these three the holy trinity that will move digital OOH effectiveness and efficiency to a completely different level.

It’s entirely understandable that we get distracted by the hype and excitement of future developments but it’s a terrible shame if the industry does not use the techniques available right now to drive bottom line benefit. 2020 must see digital OOH move dynamic creative optimisation from a “test & learn” exercise to a standard behaviour. Wake up and smell the contextual coffee - there’s a massive return on investment justification for DCO in DOOH that is being forgotten.

Neil Morris is founder and CEO of Grand Visual & QDOT (part of Talon Group)

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