Saturday 21 October 2017

John McGee: Digital's boost for great outdoors is sign of times

Times Square, New York City. Photo: Deposit
Times Square, New York City. Photo: Deposit

John McGee

A little bit of advertising history was made last month when the world's first 3D robotic advertising billboard was unveiled on the iconic Times Square, the midtown-Manhattan shrine to the thriving out-of-home (OOH) advertising industry.

Consisting of 1,760 independently moving LED screens, the 68ft-tall billboard belongs to Coca-Cola, a brand that boasts a 100-year presence on Times Square which has a daily footfall of over 300,000 people.

Such is the lure of Times Square to brands, that it costs anything between $1m-$4m a year to advertise there. While Coca Cola certainly tops the charts in terms of cut-through, companies like Toshiba, Anheuser-Busch, Dunkin' Donuts and Sony swear by their investment in its costly, but alluring, advertising inventory.

Thanks to digital's push into what was once the domain of the static billboard, Coca-Cola's digital installation has now raised the bar for innovative OOH campaigns. In the same way that brands have moved chunks of their marketing spend online, more and more are now looking at digital out-of-home (DOOH) as a way of reaching consumers in much more exciting ways than a static billboard could ever achieve.

A recent report by Magna/IPG Mediabrands estimated that the global OOH industry will be worth around $30bn in 2017 - 6pc of the year's total global adspend. Although this represents a modest growth of just 4pc, at a time when other advertising channels like press, TV and radio are under relentless pressure, the OOH industry will gladly take whatever growth it can.

What is driving this, however, is digital. The report says as much as $5bn of this $30bn will be invested in digital out-of-home (DOOH) and this is expected to rise to around $8bn by 2020.

A quick look around the many Irish shopping centres, buses, trains, bus shelters, roadside billboards, supermarkets and even pubs, clubs and gyms and it becomes clear that the OOH market here is in relatively good shape.

According to media agency Zenith, which is part of Core Media, the Irish OOH market is likely to be worth around €72m this year or approximately 8pc of the estimated €905m the agency reckons will be invested in advertising across all platforms this year. While Ireland still trails other markets in terms of the money being invested in digital, as much as 15pc of total OOH spend was ploughed into DOOH in the first half of 2017, according to a recent report by outdoor media specialist PML Group.

"OOH has witnessed an increasing migration from paper to pixels in the current decade. Screen signage now resides in a wide range of environments from retail (mall, c-stores), leisure (bars & cinemas) and travel hubs. DOOH amplifies the core 'one to many' benefit of classic OOH - namely brand building through coverage build and repeat viewability," notes Geoff Lyons, managing director of PML Group.

"DOOH also enables us to be flexible with media and creative copy - to deliver the right message at the right time in the right places for audiences," he adds. "Overall, OOH is in a good place right now. While audiences fragment elsewhere increased urbanisation, commuting times and emerging networks means OOH reaches more people than ever before as latest census figures testify," he says. "This year has seen the introduction of Digital bus shelters and billboards to Belfast and Dublin respectively with the expectation of more to follow. Media owners are also investing in new display technologies enhancing the quality of message."

While OOH may be enjoying a renaissance at the moment, the industry is not without its own unique challenges. Possibly the most significant of these is the proposed Public Health (Alcohol) Bill which could cost the Irish media industry around €20m in lost revenues if it is enacted in its current form, according to leading economist Jim Power. As much as €11m of this could be lost to the OOH industry alone, he says.

But there are other challenges too. Like other parts of the digital media ecosystem, the industry will need to move in the direction of better measurement of its digital inventory and the many standalone dots that currently exist will need to be connected.

"With so many new data points at our fingertips, as an industry we have had to evolve our understanding and analyse it productively and at pace. We must now evolve further to seamlessly aggregate and value this data in increasingly complex ways. We are already working with location data that can be combined with multiple data sources to plan our campaigns with greater accuracy than ever before. Mobile and OOH need to be joined as this is key to unlocking greater accuracy in targeting our clients' messages. Creatively, we must push the boundaries to deliver content that is stand-out. The canvas is blank and the future is exciting," concludes Lyons.

Sunday Indo Business

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