Digital adds a live element to poster power

As outdoor uses the digital space to extend its reach, five heads of department answer questions posed by Marketing Week about the sector’s burning issues.

Marketing Week (MW) Research shows that in 2009, outdoor was used primarily to drive sales or footfall. In 2010, do you see it being the same situation or used more for brand building?

Danni Murray (DM) The medium has worked hard to establish its credentials for driving sales and proximity. However, outdoor has traditionally been used successfully for building brands too and post-recession, I think we will see sectors such as finance and government using outdoor to rebuild consumer trust.

Rachel Bristow (RB) Brands will use it for both. It’s important to create market standout and engagement with consumers, and outdoor can play a big role in meeting these objectives. We use outdoor advertising as part of brand launches to highlight key messages, drive footfall to supermarkets and create “talkability”. For example, a Lynx campaign last year featured a live girl as part of the poster – this attracted huge attention on a major London road and subsequent PR coverage.

Chris Merrell (CM) All media has to work as hard as possible to generate return on investment and should include outdoor as a way to drive footfall. The campaign execution should be able to escalate brand awareness via the quality, relevance and creativity of the campaign. GPS navigation is very much a roadside or pedestrian-oriented product, so our objective is to position our message in front of an audience who are in their cars, walking along or close to where they can purchase a Garmin product. Outdoor has to support an integrated marketing campaign and can help to provide touchpoints that make the most sense to the consumer along the road to purchasing our products.

Ash Stockwell
Ash Stockwell Executive director of brands and marketing at Virgin Media

Paul Evans (PE) I would always expect every communications channel to drive both sales and brand equity. Outdoor as a channel is often wrongly perceived as a one dimensional and sometimes blunt instrument, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. I have always found the flexibility and choice of solutions present in outdoor to be one of its most attractive differentiators.

Ash Stockwell (AS) We use outdoor for high impact brand consideration opportunities to support big campaign launches. It is less about offers, but it depends on the scale of the location. A lot of it is down to the position of a site; for example, roadside locations are more suitable for high impact brand messages. We use high dwell areas like train stations and bus stops that might be near our retail outlets to drive traffic, so they have to be store and offer-related. The use will also depend on the time of year, so whether it’s a key retail season will determine whether it’s brand awareness-based or offer-based.

MW Will events like the World Cup see brands pour more resources into outdoor this year? Why or why not?

DM Research conducted by Kinetic’s Moving Minds panel shows that a third of people will watch England games in an out-of-home environment. This offers a real opportunity for brands promoting themselves around the World Cup to resonate with a mobile, summer audience. Those brands will obviously be looking to maximise their sponsorship and leverage further exposure through outdoor.

Pip Hainsworth, marketing director, Clear Channel Outdoor UK

Clear Channel’s Litmus research shows that brand messages conveyed via outdoor advertising are highly effective at driving sales and footfall, as well as awareness. A clear promotional message also has resonance – campaigns such as Tesco’s pre-Christmas non-food price promotions delivered very strong business results for the supermarket.

Outdoor advertising works both at the conscious level and unconsciously. Our work with Bangor University and with consultancy Acacia Avenue reveals that people absorb visual brand triggers at a subliminal level; they are more likely to select a brand to which they have been exposed recently on a poster, compared to one they have not seen recently.

Acacia Avenueresearch also reveals that people welcome the presence of brands around them as they go about their daily lives, and are concerned about those brands in their repertoire that “go quiet”. 

Human brains are hungry for visual stimuli, whether consciously absorbing messages or unconsciously processing brand associations. A brand that speaks to people in the course of their daily lives is forming a closer bond with them, triggering memories in their brains.

In our social, bustling, attention-deficient world, frequent potent reminders and soundbite visuals through outdoor advertising are powerful touchpoints for reinforcing brands, helping them to convey news and enter consumers’ repertoire.

Furthermore, the anchoring effect of a poster in time and place sends a message that the information is new and the product or service is available nearby. Outdoor posters are like Tweets in the public space. They can drive traffic online and to social media, as well as engaging an emotional or rational response.

The Cadbury Creme Egg campaign throughout 2009 was a great example of this and a worthy winner at the Clear Channel Outdoor Planning Awards this year. Multiple outdoor formats and engaging creative work drove the brand’s customers to social media and created a sense of mass participation.

The opportunities for dynamic and interactive campaigns using digital outdoor formats are vast, and advertisers are embracing the new possibilities. The new Nike campaign uses our digital LED billboards around London to broadcast real-time, localised leaderboard updates for Run London.

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