Brands take up outdoor pursuits

Novel formats, more premium sites and a burst of creative thinking are generating a new breed of out-of-home advertising.

Above: JCDecaux says its Waterloo Motion site is the largest in Europe and is seen by about 300,000 people every weekday

The arrival of digital billboards, investment in premium out-of-home (OOH) sites and more creative thinking have turned outdoor media on its head.

IBM has transformed traditional posters into ‘street furniture’ such as ramps, seats and shelters, while a university in Peru used a billboard to turn the moisture in the air into drinkable water. Anti-dandruff shampoo Selsun Blue is currently running a campaign in Canada using snow as a backdrop. When it snows, the flakes form a pile behind the head of the person featured on the poster, which uses the line ‘When flakes take you by surprise’.

Brands are also taking work created for TV and putting it on OOH formats, such as Audi which took over JCDecaux’s Waterloo Motion site last month to transplant all of its TV assets into an outdoor arena. JCDecaux claims the site in London’s Waterloo station is the largest in Europe, with a footfall of 300,000 people per weekday.

Outdoor drives a better online search uplift than TV in some sectors, showing a 5.5 per cent increase in travel search terms versus 3.5 per cent for TV and a 3 per cent uplift for insurance keywords compared with TV’s 0.6 per cent, claims The Outdoor Media Centre.

For some industries, however – namely mobile networks and brands – TV advertising has a greater effect, driving a 2.7 per cent uplift in online searches versus 1.1 per cent for outdoor.

James Peach, UK brand manager at Innocent Drinks, says: “The thing OOH does best is drive top-of-mind awareness, so people will see you on TV and then be reminded of you when out and about.”

Land Rover is motoring into this ‘real-life, big spectacle’ space with the ambition of showcasing all the brand’s activity through advertising that not only aims to stand out but is highly interactive as well.

Digital posters give us innovative opportunities to engage with our consumers

Helen Bainbridge, marketing manager at Land Rover, says: “We are looking to use digital posters more as they give us innovative opportunities to engage with our consumers.”

Land Rover’s #hibernot campaign encouraged people to get out and enjoy all the elements of a British winter. It featured people engaging in outdoor pursuits, refusing to let miserable weather turn them into ‘shut-ins’.

Interestingly, it is the OOH element that provides a ‘reward’ for those engaging with the campaign.

Bainbridge adds: “By asking the public to get involved in our movement, which is of course a massive ask, we felt there had to be a pay-off for [them]. So we designed the campaign with the intention of rewarding those people by using their images on our digital outdoor posters.”

Land Rover also ran a ‘sound shower’ last summer, a shower-like contraption underneath a billboard, below which is an accelerator pedal that emits a giant roar when a passer-by presses it. Eye Airports, which ran the campaign in Gatwick, Manchester and Stansted airports, claims there were more than 45,000 interactions in the month that it ran.

The nation’s obsession with the weather has proved grist to the outdoor industry’s mill in recent years and this is set to be cranked up in 2014.

Many weather-related campaigns, such as that for Stella Artois’ Cidre, feature ads that appear only when a set temperature is reached. Ford is currently running a ‘thermal geo-targeting’ campaign where the image that appears on screens changes with the temperature and with rain, sleet or snow.

Skoda and Air Wick (below) took outdoor to new creative heights, the former encasing a Yeti model in ice, the latter building a cube to emit the smells of the countryside

Tate Britain has also run a weather-inspired campaign. Earlier this year, ‘TateWeather’ ran across the London Underground, updating commuters on the weather forecast through the medium of art.

Updates were issued twice a week through both historical and modern art, such as Norman Adams’ Rainbow Painting, while commuters waited for their train to arrive.

Jesse Ringham, digital marketing manager at Tate Britain, says: “We have never run anything like this before and we’re always looking for new ideas to promote art in engaging ways.

“The forecast approach gives the commuter a regular art fix, showing memorable works from the Tate collection with a touch of humour around the British fascination with the weather.”

As the media and marketing landscapes converge, OOH is adding experiential activity. Airwick’s giant acrylic cube that captured the sights, smells and sounds of the countryside and Skoda’s ‘Yeti Outdoor’ marquee encased in a giant block of ice both achieved success.

Innocent is using experiential marketing to augment its ‘Chain of Good’ TV-led campaign in London. Working with Primesight, it is using outdoor posters in highly concentrated locations to display messages linked to the campaign.


The ‘magic’ element, Innocent says, is the experiential activity in front of the posters, whether it is a band playing and giving out two smoothies (one for the passer-by, one to pass on) or a group of helpers ready to fix bikes, hand out magazines or provide other ‘Chain of Good’ gifts.

Peach says: “We have had positive feedback on social media with loads of picture uploads. If you use outdoor posters, having sampling in the middle completely involves people in the brand.”

An old criticism of the OOH industry was that press and other media could run campaigns more quickly, reacting to world events. But digital and NFC-enabled sites, or those offering free Wi-Fi, have made it much more responsive.

During the curling final at the recent Sochi Winter Olympics, Cadbury ran a tactical digital campaign for its Curly Wurly brand with the catchline: “The difference between a curling stone and a Curly Wurly: you don’t let go of a Curly Wurly.” This was broadcast in real time so that drivers could see the image change while listening to the curling final on their car radios.

Twitter-centric outdoor campaigns have appeared this year with Nokia using popular childhood game I Spy to promote its Lumia smartphone. Twitter users following the #iSpy hashtag were invited to guess the identity of notable landmarks that featured on outdoor screens and then tweet them.

The Tate used a wide range of its art collections so that it always had a weather-relevant piece to show commuters

Darryl McKay, global digital marketing manager at Nokia, says: “#iSpy was all about taking a familiar game and using it to convey our message while giving people a fun way to experience the Lumia 1020’s features.

“Twitter is an important platform for us. As well as offering feedback and reactions, it’s a good way to reach out to our Nokia followers.”

Ikea is also shifting spend into OOH media by branding students’ cars in Newcastle and Durham in a deal with Uni Car as part of an awareness drive. Ikea says the campaign is relatively cheap, boasts standout appeal and is achieving high recall rates, with up to 70 per cent of students recalling seeing the cars.

Ikea marketing manager Michael Cox says: “Traditional outdoor advertising is quite expensive. We wanted to access something that was cost-effective and a bit different so we scaled back advertising in student unions.

Innocent Drinks added an experiential element to its ‘Chain of Good’ outdoor ads

“It was a bit of suck-it-and-see but it’s getting good recall rates. We would like to invest more.”

The public has responded favourably to the interactive element of OOH campaigns over the past year. For example, Honda’s ‘Headturner’ campaign, which invited the public to press ‘black’ or ‘white’ to indicate which colour of car they preferred, beat expectations by generating 65,000 interactions.

With so many brands channelling funds into outdoor media because of the new opportunities on offer, the old tag of ‘the paper and paste industry’ is rapidly being forgotten.


Jesse Ringham
Digital marketing manager
Tate Britain

Marketing Week (MW): What was the thinking behind Tate Britain’s weather-related Tube campaign?

Jess Ringham (JR): We have never run anything like this before and we’re always looking for new ideas to promote art in engaging ways. The [weather] forecast approach gives the commuter a regular art fix, showing very memorable work from the Tate collection with a touch of humour around the British fascination with the weather.

MW: What were the campaign’s challenges? 

JR: It involved gathering a large quantity of images and there were challenges in how to promote the collection in an accessible but editorial manner.

MW: How have you measured the success of the campaign?

JR: ‘TateWeather’ has been a regular Friday fixture on Tate’s social media channels for the past few years. It’s certainly one of the most popular pieces of social content. We’re starting to notice tweets from members of the public using the Tube, and even from some weather forecasters. The main focus of the campaign is to deliver some inspiring art to hard-pressed commuters in London – making it a cultured commute.

MW: What tips do you have for marketers trying similar campaigns?

JR: Keep the messaging simple. People are only waiting for seconds until the next train. Stay relevant – the artwork represents the actual weather according to the BBC.

Outdoor: the big three challenges

1. Standing out

Ikea marketing manager Michael Cox says prominence is key for out-of-home campaigns. The cost of pasting the brand on hundreds of student cars in Newcastle and Durham was around the same as putting poster advertising on two or three bus stops.

2. Image quality

Honda used out-of-home media to show off its special-edition CR-V model. By keeping the imagery simple, it was able to promote the car’s appearance. At Ikea, Cox says he had concerns about putting the brand on cheap-looking cars but his fears proved unfounded.

3. Return on investment

Out-of-home media may grab attention but marketers must make sure that the money spent on campaigns pays back. Having an interactive element helps to measure the response from consumers.