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