Press Coverage

What impact will Digital Outdoor have?

Dean Wilson 18 Oct 2011

Dean Wilson, UK MD at Active International, looks at the future of the outdoor industry and the impact of digital outdoor on the medium.

Outdoor is generally considered as the last broadcast medium with benefits as clear as a 48 or 96 sheet.

Fast cover build; around 80% with a heavyweight multi format campaign and large scale impact. I was one of many stopped in my tracks in 1994 with Eva Herzigova’s “Hello Boys” for Wonderbra. I’ve often wondered if the National Office of Statistics has any data on road traffic accidents caused in the proximity of these posting sites!

However, what it highlighted to the wider public as well as us media professionals is that there is no debate that Outdoor does ‘branding’ well. This is supported by the fact that 95 out of the top 100 advertisers invest to some degree in the medium.

In fact 2010 saw revenues of £880 million with Outdoor commanding a 10% share of all display advertising, a 26% growth over the decade. Despite challenging times the industry is forecast to rise 2% in 2011 and 5% in 2012 driven by a certain sporting event that the UK is hosting?

In this fragmented and accelerated world we live in all media are attempting to future proof their offering. Technology is more disruptive and consumers are more fickle.

With its traditional sell, Out-of-home (OOH) advertising offers the ability to schedule a campaign 26 times in a year across just a handful of formats, whereas Digital Outdoor offers 10 times this with more than 50 formats.

Outdoor has always done ‘brand’ well, and it is hoped digital will transform the industry by offering a targeting sell through different creative treatments and the opportunity to interact and engage with consumers. A new message and a potentially new revenue stream.

It all seems too good to be true; brand and targeting, existing advertisers spending more and new advertisers flocking to the medium.

It seems that the message can change, but is it wanted? Digital screens are forecast to double over the coming decade.

In tandem with this rise, Postar is launching its pioneering new GPS audience measurement. For the first time OOH will compete on a level playing field, delivering improved accountability for all formats, including digital. It seems OOH is growing up and cleaning up.

2010 saw digital OOH break the £100m barrier - 12.5% of all OOH revenue. By 2016 this is anticipated to be £160m.

Despite being the largest proportion of OOH, roadside will see the slowest migration to digital due to concerns over the health and safety aspect. “Enclosed locations” such as Shopping Malls and Airports appear to deliver a more receptive audience (greater dwell time and more engaged mindset).

Without wanting to sound like an extra in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, digital’s offering of QR codes, Augmented Reality and Near Field Communication have the capacity to enable location based and real time opportunities that put outdoor in the running against previously unconsidered planning criteria.

The question is are consumers ready for this? Undoubtedly, thanks to the proliferation of smartphone ownership the UK is now more mobile, with more mobiles. By 2015, 75% of the UK will carry a smartphone and over 1/4 of time spent online will be on a mobile handset. From a personal point of view if the message is targeted and timely iOOH has the potential to emerge as a new specialism within the industry.

The opportunities digital brings are undoubtedly exciting, both creatively and commercially. The million dollar question is do the economics add up?

Still in its infancy, uptake from advertisers is currently focused on the “gimmicky” approach (consider Lynx Excite recent campaign targeting weary commuters at train stations with 3D Falling Angels).

Success will come down to simple supply and demand. On average a digital 6 sheet costs around £13k per unit, plus installation and running costs. Standardisation and uniformity of technology and delivery is key - no one wants to back the betamax! The success will be in the scalability and sustainability.

Since its inception in 2006, Postar has been a driving force in increasing OOH credibility and accountability. For the imminent launch of the new and improved Postar (RIP posters, the future is frames) over 500,000 formats have been logged, mapped and tagged.

Postar will cover all formats and for the first time advertisers will see the cumulative effect of using a multi format OOH campaign. Digital will be assessed on its merits within this.

With this change in data it could be argued it is time to reappraise the OOH trading model to an audience led, cost per thousand approach... but that is a whole other article!

The changes in the medium with the increased investment in digital have the potential to change the message. Though the impact is still uncertain.

In 2 years it is forecast Digital OOH could be bigger than Cinema, in 5 years bigger than Radio. It is vital the Outdoor industry evaluates, reflects and refines and remembers to keep asking just because we can, should we?

Dean Wilson

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