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/ 15.11.2017

What is the Future of Digital Outdoor Advertising?

– Sol Rogers
Founder/CEO, REWIND

The digital world is well known for utilising every advertising trick in the book to deliver the latest product or message directly to our screens. From pop ups, integrated video advertisements and algorithms that track our browsing and shopping habits, to streaming services that require us to watch sponsored content before the content we really want to watch; advertising online has become an internet juggernaut.

However, this new era of advertising is not simply confined to the virtual realm. Digital Out Of Home (DOOH) advertising has brought billboards to life worldwide, decorating our streets and cities with colourful encouragements to buy the newest phone, or see the latest blockbuster movie.

In 2014, electronic billboards seemed to reach their climax when Times Square turned on its biggest digital display yet; an eight storey high monster that was later rented by Google. At over 25,000 square feet and with an unmatched pixel density, the new billboard may have pushed the boundaries of size and scope, but there is already much more that DOOH is capable of. The world of advertising is about to be transformed, again.

 

Interactive billboards are putting consumers in the picture

One year after Times Square launched its biggest billboard ever, Revlon trumped it with a much smaller but just as newsworthy campaign – the Kiss Cam. The makeup brand’s advertisement brought the joy of the baseball game “Jumbotron” to the streets of New York. The Kiss Cam billboard displayed a live video feed of the crowds standing below it, overlaid with a lipstick-tinged heart graphic. The two individuals in the centre of the heart graphic were then instructed to kiss as the billboard zoomed in and counted down from three. Whatever the reason, the majority of viewers opted not to kiss. Instead they frantically pointed their phone cameras back at the billboard, thrilled to see their own faces on a Times Square advert.

As with any novel new installation, the advertisement was incredibly popular with both locals and tourists. Maybe a little too popular as it turns out: after a series of groping incidents, Revlon was forced to shut down the campaign for four days by the NYPD. NY Police Commissioner, Bill Bratton said, “There are people coming up and groping people who are so intent on taking selfies of themselves, they don’t realize somebody is grabbing their butt.” There were also raised eyebrows at the lack of LGBT representation on display: while the Instagram #LoveIsOn tag was filled with couple of all sexualities and identities, the curated gallery shown on both the Revlon website and the billboard itself was surprisingly straight.

Unfortunate (but not entirely surprising) consequences aside, it’s clear interactive billboards have a strong appeal to consumers. More brands around the world are taking this on board.

In July of 2017, UK Supermarket chain Sainsbury’s launched a DOOH campaign in some of the UK’s busiest train stations, with the aim of bringing the retailer front of mind during the long summer days. Called ‘Weeknight BBQ is Living Well’, the campaign was based on research claiming that 83% of people believe that longer nights officially mark the summer. Large billboards counted down the hours until the sun sets, using real-time data fed to the placements.

In a newspaper first, The Sun provided humorous headlines and updates generated in real-time, as the Euro 2016 games unfolded in France. The headlines played out across 900 digital screens in the UK, updating live as the action developed. By the end of the tournament, over 5,000 headlines had run across the different screen formats and reached over 47 million people.

It’s not just brands that are pushing innovation in DOOH; the NHS launched an augmented reality DOOH campaign of its own, allowing people to sign up and digitally give blood in exchange for a personalised thank you message. While the charity Women’s Aid launched a DOOH campaign to raise awareness of domestic violence. The campaign included a billboard which displayed an image of a bruised woman next to the imperative “Look At Me”. Below that, there was a live video feed of the onlookers, which used facial recognition to highlight the faces of those who were indeed looking. The more faces the screen recognised as looking at the billboard, the quicker the woman’s bruises faded – a powerful metaphor for how conversation needs to be raised around the often-unspoken terror of domestic violence. The award-winning campaign is a testament to how DOOH can be used to drive change in powerful ways.

 

Data will drive engagement and help with targeting

Increases in the technological complexity of DOOH are not only helping brands create more memorable experiences for potential customers; they’re also collecting our data. As B&T magazine reports, software for real-time tracking and reporting on DOOH advertising has already been launched in Australia. It aims to gather data on the effectiveness of advertisements by tracking the number of ‘plays’ or ‘posts’ an interactive advertisement has, thus helping advertisers gauge their success. At the moment this technology is in its early stages, but the potential to help give advertisers a clear picture of their billboards’ effectiveness is clear.

Other kinds of data are being utilised too. JCDecaux and Clear Channel UK have both launched DOOH platforms which allow advertisers to target their content based on time, location, and even weather conditions. This kind of data analysis will help brands reach the perfect audience at the perfect time, in a way they never could have before.

 

Brands will spend more on digital out-of-home

These new interactive, data-equipped outdoor advertisements might be expensive, but brands are more than happy to pay the price to stay ahead of the curve. PricewaterhouseCoopers has predicted that spending on DOOH advertising will increase rapidly over the next few years – set to rise to $33 billion by 2021 in the US alone – with twelve markets set to gain over half their revenue via DOOH as soon as 2021.

PwC compared the shift towards DOOH to the way digital publishing has threatened the traditional newspaper industry. The difference is that out-of-home’s transition to (and integration with) digital media has been fairly smooth, compared to the still contentious print-vs-digital debate in the publishing world, where digital media is still seen as a disruption to the old order.

It’s appropriate, then, that some of the biggest online media companies are becoming some of DOOH’s biggest spenders. Google even launched a huge four-sided digital display over London’s “Silicon Roundabout” at Old Street tube station that displayed live updates about search trends, along with suggested nearby restaurants, attractions and activities. This astronomical level of investment from media giants will no doubt drive more technical innovation in the medium.

Ironically, despite all this innovation, through DOOH we have returned to advertising’s roots and its original purpose: to provide an engaging and useful service to the public. Through the ages different tools and mediums have been used to convey important, relevant information in a public arena; DOOH’s ability to target messaging and make it super relevant is just a smarter way of doing this.

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