Last month saw the relaunch of the famous Piccadilly Lights. The lights had been out of action for a number of months and so the great and the good of the advertising industry assembled to see the new-look Piccadilly come back to life in its new form – and it’s as impressive as ever.

One of the most recognisable advertising locations in the world, the biggest brands have fought for space on this location ever since the first illuminated advertising hoarding at Piccadilly Circus was a Perrier sign, installed in 1908. Since then, the most famous brands in the world have invested in the location, indeed Coca Cola have been advertising on Piccadilly since 1954.

From this to super ultra large format

In a world where advertisers are becoming increasingly focused on data and cost per lead there is a reason why these big brands still opt for a giant out of home location. Whilst we know the footfall is extremely high at Piccadilly, there is of course no click through rate and as with all outdoor media it is difficult to attribute leads and awareness to this particular site. Some across the industry will argue it is “not a good use of budget” and “wastage”, and it is true that the majority of brands out there may not have the luxury of such a large budget, so what is driving brands to see value in a location like this? Well aside from it stating “we can afford a big poster” there are many studies which suggest that if you put something on a giant billboard then people are likely to believe in it.

Millennials put their trust in Out of Home

Nielsen research posits that Out of Home advertising is a trusted medium: not only is it trusted more than online media; it is also more likely than online media to drive people to take action: the survey suggested that 56% of respondents trust the medium and 58% are likely to take action having been exposed to it.

Millennials in particular, exposed as they are to a glut of adverts at every turn, tend to be slightly more trusting of “traditional” media than of digital formats. The Nielsen report demonstrates that trust in the message of out of home advertising, at 56%, is significantly higher than comparable figures for online display (48%) and online video (46%). This is a huge gap given that so many brands turn to Search and Social Media as their starting point for most campaigns. It’s clear that Out of Home has a valuable part to play in most media schedules, and it doesn’t have to be on such a scale as Piccadilly.

An interconnected plan integrates trust and brand building elements

Trust in advertising is just one of the topics we are currently discussing as part of our focus on the connections customers make to their brands. Helping our clients to take a wholistic view of media as a connected circle, in which each platform complements the other to convey a strong message, rather than a plan wherein each channel is working to its own ends in isolation.

Back in 2013 British Airways successfully used giant digital out of home locations that identified real planes as they flew overhead. This campaign used data about flight routes and digital out of home ads in real time for the first time. It also strove to humanise this data in its execution, with a toddler running toward us excitedly to point out the plane at the exact moment it was above our heads. A campaign so successful and creative that you can still hear it mentioned in every digital brainstorm meeting across London.

Fast forward to 2017 and McDonald’s are currently running a campaign that combines data with Out of Home and some clever insight, playing on consumers’ day-to-day frustrations. On Digital Out of Home locations across the UK on busy roads at peak times of the day, the ad features a burger but as traffic gradually builds up and the traffic slows, the ad changes to show the McDonalds golden arches and the message “Stuck in a jam? There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.” The ad then directs people to the next nearest McDonalds. The campaign cleverly leveraged real time stats from Google’s Traffic API to dictate in real time which message would be delivered to each billboard, so as to create a connection with the consumer.

Connections with the customer is the key to good media planning.

In January we are holding a get together for some of our clients and partners where we will be discussing how our clients can match up their business aims to key insights and relevant media that not only benefits their business but also encourages their audience to develop a connection with them. Travel brands in particular have a wealth of data and make use of it when it comes to their digital channels and in their business decisions. They know who their audience are, when they last booked a flight, when they looked at their website, when they booked a holiday and what they paid. Travel brands use this to set their own benchmarks for price increases and decreases, but why not also use this data more in their offline advertising, to help their customers to get easily to the point of purchase?

Consumers are becoming more and more savvy about how important their personal data and media habits are to brands. What if brands could use this data to create a more meaningful customer experience in the right place at the right time? Connecting data with different media to advertise the brand but to create a more meaningful connection with the brand and digital out of home can leverage data in the aggregate without violating personal data privacy.

We know from the recent IPA Touchpoints 2017 survey that time spent out of home continues to increase (up 9% on 2016 and 13% on 2005) and over 26% of all adults are consuming three different media in any half any hour, meaning adults spend over two hours each day media multi-tasking.

OOH often offers contextual relevance.

Numerous studies have identified the phenomenon of in-store sales increasing due to the presence of out-of-home close to the point of purchase, activated because the momentary relevance of the advertisement creates an enhanced impression. With this in mind, brands can use Out of Home and build on its traditional trust qualities to boost the confidence that online channels lack, and allow the net result of the two media to deliver a greater response than the sum of their parts. This is not a new revelation, but brands need to work harder to deliver quality cross-channel experiences to engage with their audiences.

There is the danger of creating data connections and feeds to Out of Home locations just because the technology allows it. There is no question that a giant poster can do a great job on its own, but relevant data integrated into the oldest medium in the world, in the right way at the right time, has the potential to make it a more vibrant, trusted and effective medium for forward-thinking brands that people believe in.

The recent focus on Piccadilly Lights provides a valuable and iconic reminder that the OOH medium continues to deserve consideration and will be a feature of many more media plans, building our brands of the future.

Laura Mouratsing
Senior Strategic Media Planner Buyer