Digital out of home: the ultimate screen experience

Pepsi Max's 'unbelievable bus shelter'

Pepsi Max’s ‘unbelievable bus shelter’

It’s been a mixed start to the year for Out of Home. On the up side, digital revenue recorded its biggest ever Q1 figure and showed outdoor technology is growing ever more responsive – and further into the mainstream – as new propositions rolled out nationwide.

On the down side, total outdoor revenue for Q1 was down 2.2% year on year.

Which begs a question: while smart screens continue to boost outdoor’s image, how best can we, as an industry, use digital to reach beyond established budgets to grow outdoor’s overall revenue pool?

Latest evidence of DOOH’s spring shoots include the rollout by JCDecaux of its new national and Tesco networks and the interest generated by our own CityLive network since its launch late last year.

And in addition to front end investment in state of the art technology, the industry is responding strongly too, to the improved planning, targeting and trading opportunities improved data and associated back-end technology present. All of which has led to a dramatic change in how OOH is perceived from within and – to a certain extent – outside the industry, as well.

That’s the good news story but, sadly, the bigger picture is anything but. For not only is total OOH revenue growing more slowly than digital revenue, there is a real danger that digital revenue is coming from existing outdoor budgets rather than attracting the new money it so rightly deserves.

An important factor which will dictate what happens next is the industry’s ability to effectively position the power of OOH digital in a digital world, which is why the industry must get to grips with how to better position its digital proposition in the broader digital media marketplace, and fast.

Whether or not you buy into the JCDecaux proposition that its new national network of 1,400 digital screens – Channel 6 – is equivalent in audience size to the country’s fifth biggest commercial TV channel, there is an important point to be made about the synergies that exist between DOOH and TV. Both powerful screen platforms deliver high impact, high prestige branding at scale.

And there are some strong synergies with online display emerging too.

Today, like online, DOOH has a really broad digital inventory enabling brands to target a wide range of different people at different times and in different places to deliver the right content at the right brand moment. And in terms of accountability, we are now starting to deliver campaign analytics that digital creatives and planners would recognise and expect.

I’m talking about an audience-based currency (rather than spots on a loop) that can tap into real-time data – to automatically deliver targeted content or modify campaign creative, for example.

Clients know they can do this with Facebook or Google ads, but now they can do so for a growing number of out of home digital networks, too – using CityLive’s Enhance live dashboard for example, or JCDecaux’s CAPTAIn tool. And of course programmatic buying looks to be around the corner.

Meanwhile, a new generation of responsive screens – like those developed for CityLive – allow consumers to drive their own content alongside brand messages.

My point is that to flourish in the broader digital world we must shout the facts loud and clear. That digital has enabled us to enhance outdoor’s
accountability to deliver new ways of sharing audience and optimising ad delivery.

That the traditional strengths of the high impact poster combined with technology that empowers consumer response and content creation, represents a compelling hybrid proposition (and a far more powerful branding platform proposition than, say, Google Display or the eponymous smartphone).

And that there is no other medium that allows brands to be quite so creative and playful, whilst combining great metrics with PR punch – Pepsi Max’s ‘unbelievable bus shelter’ being a recent case in point.

Last but not least, we must take a lead from the consumer for our base positioning. Rather than talking about DOOH to the wider media community as a timely add-on to the core OOH proposition, we should refer to it exactly as today’s consumer experiences it: as another screen and a big one at that.

And as another screen, it is an important digital tool in a brand’s media tool kit.

Richard Blackburn is commercial director at MediaCo Outdoor@mediacooutdoor