(I Lied About Being) The Outdoor Type

(I Lied About Being) The Outdoor Type

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Hopefully the slightly cryptic – and more-than-slightly tenuous – title of this post will lead you to seek out the song of the same name (by Australian band Smudge). Then again, perhaps you’re not really interested in self-deprecating and bittersweet paeans to the things people will do for love so, in that case, please do read on to find out more about the future of Digital Out of Home (or OOH, as I prefer not to call it) and the ambitious plans of the new champions of the medium, Outsmart.

We recently attended an event in Edinburgh hosted by Primesight entitled ‘Unlocking The Potential of Digital Out of Home’. The event was well attended by agencies from Auld Reekie and beyond and included speakers from Primesight and Outsmart (formerly the Outdoor Media Centre) – the aim being to inform everyone in agency land as to who Outsmart actually are and what they do, and to talk about the rise (and rise) of digital outdoor.

Primesight used the event as a platform to talk about the growth of the digital outdoor footprint nationally. Some of the numbers involved make for compelling reading; in 2007, the average consumer was exposed to 8 minutes of digital outdoor per week. By 2017 this figure will be 56 minutes per week. In 2007, 4% of outdoor spend was on digital formats – by 2020 it is expected to be as high as 50% of outdoor spend. Evidence suggests that outdoor media is particularly effective at increasing the ROI of other media (examples provided included broadcast and digital display) when added in to the mix, with the right mix of ‘classic’ and digital outdoor being 75%/ 25%.

So, we can use digital outdoor to amplify traditional media campaigns, we have the ability to buy and report on campaigns like we’re now so used to doing with digital media and we can be more creative (ie location, time and context-specific) when it comes to messaging. All this offers agencies and clients the perfect chance to reach consumers in key ‘micro-moments’ (a phrase coined by Google to describe the increasingly-fragmented consumer journey).

All the main contractors are now entering the fray with digital offerings (both 6 sheet and large format). Indigenous contractors like Forrest Media and national retail specialists such as Universal Outdoor are also adding to the opportunities available. The digital estate is still dwarfed by more traditional/ ‘classic’ vinyl and paper & paste panels – which is where the real scale still is – and the footprint is still relatively small (especially up here in the frozen Northlands), but if you just want to target commuters on specific routes in their cars, or families at high footfall malls while they shop – all with messaging that can now be served in ‘real time’ – digital outdoor is staking a real claim for space on media schedules.

Outsmart (http://www.outsmart.org.uk/) launched in September 2015 with the express purpose of ‘informing, educating and inspiring people to do wonderful things in Out of Home’ and (importantly) driving an increased share of display revenue into the OOH medium.  The website itself is a vibrant, colourful melange of news pieces, case studies, reports, opinions and creative showcases and is a definite improvement on the old OMC site – think of it/ them as a Thinkbox for OOH if you will – but it remains to be seen whether their aim of spreading the gospel of outdoor media (digital or otherwise) will have the desired effect.

They are currently in the process of collating the results of the largest consumer insight study into OOH – an intriguing piece of research which will measure the impact on connected device activity following exposure to outdoor campaigns – and Outsmart also want to prove that outdoor can perform well in econometric ROI models and deliver an uplift in sales, customer acquisition and market share for increasingly demanding clients and agencies. Not much to do then.

Finally, in terms of outreach, their plan is to meet and engage with more agencies and specialists to sell in what is often a largely undersold medium. Route – the £19m piece of research which was brought to market in 2013 as a game-changing audience analysis tool – hasn’t really changed the way many agencies plan and buy outdoor in the way the industry hoped it would, chiefly because so many people still don’t really know what it is and what to do with it.

Outsmart’s mission to enlighten and inspire agencies (creative or otherwise) is an admirable and – I think – probably overdue one. I think most planners/ buyers worth their salt would welcome the opportunity to discuss any new, relevant and exciting research and opportunities available with clients.

I hope the title – or the latter content – of this post doesn’t suggest I have an axe to grind with OOH (my feelings for that personally-maligned acronym aside). Far from it. As Outsmart’s intensely passionate CEO said on the day, ‘posters – digital or otherwise – are still posters’. By that I think he meant that they are still a very well-known entity, a tried and trusted form of advertising that can deliver huge impact for brands and businesses of all sizes. The flexibility and creativity that the increasing digital estate will (eventually) bring, coupled with increased transparency and targeting bodes well for the future of this venerable medium and for the clients who continue to use it.

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