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Out Of Home Media Planning and Buying Media

A fake mascara video hoodwinked the public – is it outdoor advertising?


By Jon Mundy, UK commercial director

July 14, 2023 | 6 min read

New CGI techniques mean advertisers can fake jaw-dropping experiential scenes for social media kudos. Jon Mundy, UK commercial director at Sage and Archer, likes the work but hopes it doesn’t detract from the real power of out-of-home.


The Maybelline mascara ad that has been doing the rounds in the last week or so is a perfect demonstration of the huge viral impact of OOH when done right. Trains and buses getting a regular lash update as they go about their days, was a compelling idea. But there’s a catch. The whole thing was fake. It was a CGI video. Come on - do you really think TfL would put massive eyelashes on the Jubilee line?

That didn’t stop the press from picking up on it - with several gloriously credulous pieces falling for it hook, line and sinker, together with the obligatory “TfL is going to hell” comments beneath. No doubt vast quantities of mascara will be sold, Maybelline’s excellent marketing team will get a raise and everyone wins (apart from TfL of course, which presumably hasn’t earned a penny for the virtual use of their vehicles).

This virtual campaign demonstrated perfectly the huge impact that out-of-home can have. Seeing something unfamiliar, even comical, in a familiar environment catches the eye and sparks the imagination. Even better, when done right, it makes us want to share it with our friends.

But there are some unsettling questions this raises for us in the industry.

First, how do we classify it, where does it fit into a campaign, and what role can more traditional OOH have with it? Equally in a future where reality and augmented reality crossover what is this going to look like?

Will a future OOH platform enable augmented reality ads just like Maybelline’s eyelashes. Snapchat filters are perfect for this, but they’re not OOH. Or are they?

After all, what is mobile if it’s not a screen that is engaged with out of home?

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In case you hadn’t already noticed out of home is going through some changes. In the past 15 years, we’ve seen the widespread digitization of the channel with high-definition screens being deployed on high streets, bus shelters, billboards and rail stations all over the land, and now these screens are being unlocked by the advent of powerful programmatic DOOH planning and buying platforms.

Digital out-of-home, and more so programmatic digital out-of-home, present a massive opportunity when combined with the kind of creative thinking shown in the Maybelline ad. Okay, we’re not able to plant massive physical eyelashes on trains, but having the ability to dynamically tailor creative to location and for particular times of day opens up a huge range of possibilities for advertisers, and unlike CGI, these ads are grounded in reality. They rely on knowledge and data about actual places to directly inform them, making them even more relevant and impactful.

And then there are the huge 3D anamorphic ads seen at Piccadilly Circus, Times Square and Tokyo really grab the attention and get endlessly shared on social media, but we’re already seeing the same 3D effects trickle down to much more prolific D6 screens found in shopping centres and tube stations. Equally Global’s digital ribbons on escalators across the London underground are showing how digital out-of-home can enable real eye-catching innovation without resorting to virtual reality.

Looking beyond that, programmatic DOOH allows campaigns to be simply and accurately coordinated with other channels. It’s already easy to run roadside DOOH campaigns to tie in perfectly with radio ads, and beyond that DOOH can be easily used to augment TV campaigns by using viewing data from CTV data platforms to inform buying decisions.

So back to the original point. You can do amazing things with CGI, but isn’t it so much better when we do them in real life? I think so.

Out Of Home Media Planning and Buying Media

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