The Changing Outdoor Advertising Landscape

The growth of the digital media  has brought considerable change to the media landscape.  Television has managed to more than hold its own over the last ten years but the newspaper and publishing sector has seen dramatic declines as consumers switch to free online alternatives. Unfortunately for the print industry, PWC’s forecasts point to  this trend continuing.

Sector growth in UK entertainment and media

Out-of-home advertising is another of the more traditional media formats that has managed to go against the trend of declining revenues. The UK out-of-home media sector has managed to continued the growth trend that followed the London Olympics.

Changes in technology have strengthened out-of-home advertising’s position, putting it in a comparatively strong position vis-a-vis other media channels. I’ll look at some of the key developments in the sector.

Outdoor joins the world of Big Data

The first development is the industry is taking a much more methodical approach to reporting on consumer’s exposure to outdoor media. In the past the outdoor sector’s reporting was a lot less robust than the equivalent for television and digital but initiatives such as Route in the UK and TAB Out of Home Ratings in the US are going a long way to address this.

Route  uses mobile technology to track a 28,000 person UK sample and understand the likelihood as to whether audiences will have seen  the outdoor assets (and not simply having been in proximity to it).

The system also enables the profiling of the poster by audience type  (demographics, behaviours and media consumption) rather than raw numbers, enabling more targeted approaches and facilitating cross media campaigns.

This reduces wastage in outdoor media campaigns and has put it in a more equal footing with other media channels where they have traditionally had a richer pool of consumer data to pull on.

Digitally Enriched Outdoor Advertising

The second development I would point to in out-of-home media sector is the growth in digital outdoor advertising.

Digital outdoor advertising when coupled with appropriate content management systems has given media owners the opportunity to serve different creative based on the  time of day as well as enabling a more rapid turnaround in creative.

The Sun’s Second Sight campaign provides an example of these forces at work, promoting the day’s headlines to commuters during the morning rush hour.

The Sun Second Sight

Digital formats also provide the opportunity to enrich creative executions. British Airway’s #lookup in Piccadilly Circus used a video advertising billboard to show pictures of a young child tracking a British Airways plane flying overhead with live flight information.

Interacting with Outdoor Advertising

The third development I would point to is the growing array of response channels now provided to out-of-home advertisers. Outdoor advertising has traditionally been associated with broadcast advertising, using bold imagery and sharp copy to catch consumers eye. Abbot Mead Vickers’ pioneering work on The Economist and TBWA/Chiat/Day’s work on Apple’s iPod Silhouettes campaign provides an interesting case study of how messages can resonate long after the creative was experienced.

The growing prevalence of mobile phones and more specifically  smartphone has changed the landscape for outdoor advertisers, giving the media space to have a life beyond the four corners of a billboard.  The use of SMS short codes, QR codes and NFC has provided advertisers with a means of engaging with consumers, provided the appropriate incentives (music downloads, games. discounts etc) are given.

Universal Pictures tried this with its outdoor campaign for Despicable Me 2 which saw users able to control elements of a digital billboard after synchronising their smartphone with users then able to share the results with their social networks.

Advertisers also have the opportunity to enrich their outdoor campaigns using augmented reality mobile apps such as Aurasma, Layar, Blippar and Vuforia. These enable the creation of a virtual layer on top of the outdoor creative,  providing the opportunity to inform and entertain

Whilst the results can proving exciting for consumers, the need to download a mobile app in the majority of cases often leaves these campaigns better suited to print or packaging based campaigns where the consumer has more time interacting with the creative.

SMS short codes, QR codes and NFC have all been held up as providing a more universal means of forging a channel with consumers but stumbling blocks remain with user experience, awareness and device compatibility issues.  The emergence of BLE enabled smartphones and beacon based technology raises the prospect of an improved channel for communicating with consumers, but it remains a largely unproven channel at this stage.

Analog Still has a Role

Digital outdoor revenues are experiencing strong growth but its important to remember that this is off a small base and traditional analog advertising still makes up the majority of outdoor revenues.  Analog outdoor poster campaigns still have a lot to offer advertisers and don’t need to worry about technology getting in the way of an impactful message.

Online advertising stalwart Google’s campaign promoting voice search for mobile is one of my outdoor favourites, showing what can be done when smart copy and media placement are paired together.

Pih-ka-di-lee sur-khus

Competition with the Mobile Screen

One of the interesting issues that the outdoor sector needs to address is the competition for consumer’s attention when out-of-the-home. Consumers are spending growing amounts of time with their mobile phones – something that’s particularly apparent in the UK.

Time Spent Using Phones Online Per Month

Whilst the growing penetration of smartphones provides a valuable means of bringing campaigns to life, it also provides a competitor for consumers attention when on the go.  Whilst this is arguably not the case for drivers, anyone who has walked down a major high street over the last year will have experienced  the perils of zombie texters.

For outdoor to be a success, the industry will need to ensure that outdoor advertising continues to entertain and inform rather than simply confronting and disrupts as people go about their daily lives.

The featured image is Sixe Paredes’s mural for Asphalte in Charleroi, Belgium and covered in StreetArtNews.

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