Putting the great in outdoor

Mike Baker of the Outdoor Media Centre on how the industry is reviving the outdoor medium and the key benefits of doing so.

Mike Baker

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Outdoor, arguably the world’s oldest medium, continues to make inroads on other media and last year was no exception. Thanks to the emergence of new technology, coupled with investment across all environments and heavy advertiser spending on visual branding at the London Games, 2012 was the year that outdoor passed a new threshold: 10 per cent of display advertising media, according to Nielsen.

Now the industry is presenting a new value proposition, hoping to encourage more advertisers to re-evaluate their media strategies and to invest more in outdoor. Outdoor’s marketing teams (both sellers and buyers) have identified five key benefits of using the medium. These go by the name of ‘Outdoor to the Power of Five’.

Active audience

First up is the audience: young, urban, mobile and connected – in other words, highly likely to own a smartphone or tablet. Unlike some other media, the heaviest consumers of outdoor are the most attractive – they earn the most and travel the furthest. Or as Steve Cox, marketing director at JCDecaux Airport, puts it: “The people you most reach with outdoor are the people you most want to reach”. 

There’s clear evidence that the people most exposed to outdoor are also those most likely to buy because of it too, as last year’s Customer Journey research from the Outdoor Media Centre showed.

Right place, right time

Secondly, the active space. This reminds us where the message is being delivered – where people are close to the point of purchase and in buying mode. 

It’s not just the proximity. It’s the mindset consumers are in and the context you find them in. Think commuters on their way to work, shoppers on the high street, motorists heading home, fitness fanatics in the gym. There’s a chance to tailor campaigns to targeted subgroups in an appropriate environment.

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Third comes impressions that last. The outdoor image is typically a single compelling image, the very essence of the brand, and often that image will stick with us for years. 

Ocean Outdoor’s marketing director Richard Malton explains: “A strong outdoor image burns itself into the retina. Think Wonderbra, or the Wayne Rooney George Cross ad for England.”

The amplification medium

Fourth up, outdoor is the amplification medium. This means that outdoor takes the advertiser’s message further. It will always deliver incremental reach onto broadcast, press or online campaigns, and can build on awareness generated in these media to deliver final prompts to purchase for consumers out shopping. What’s more, it’s the medium most likely to generate a mobile search and to influence others and create word of mouth, according to TGI data.

Bright future

Finally, outdoor sits at the heart of technological change. According to Nick Mawditt, recently hired director of marketing and insight at Talon, we have seen the fabric of outdoor change dramatically towards a context of activation.

“Digital screens now take one in five of every pound spent on outdoor,” he says. “At the same time, interactive elements such as near-field communication (NFC) and touchscreens mean the outdoor experience can be much more immersive and engaging.”

Real results

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My month has been dominated by return on investment. The Outdoor Media Centre recently conducted an overview with the econometrics units at nine major media agencies and published a report, which I have been taking out to media owners, agencies and a few advertiser clients.

What is interesting is the extraordinary range of ROI values reported. There are definitely some clients who don’t seem to be getting a fantastic return on their outdoor investment, to be fair, but the majority of agencies recorded a positive result. And the best ones did more than 10 times better than the worst ones. This is pretty encouraging, but just what drives those differences?

First, there are natural category differences. I suspect we do best with categories in the natural heartland of outdoor: brands that are used outside, such as mobile phones, or that target affluent, young, urban, mobile audiences, such as fashion; those that rely on strong visual branding and packshot recognition as part of their marketing programme such as perfumes; impulse purchases such as confectionery and drinks;
and launches, such as attractions, shows, media programmes, games, books and films. 

Travel is another strong suit, as outdoor can paint a beautiful picture and create longing for faraway destinations as an antidote to the drabness of the UK. Motors are enjoying a revival at the roadside too.

The creative effect

There’s no question, outdoor is a medium sensitive to creative effects. Great outdoor creative creates impressions that last. 

Outdoor is a strong brand builder, but if the campaign is going to go through the econometrics process, wouldn’t it be logical to make posters more directive, tactical and price-based, with lots of call to action, bold pricing and ‘buy it now’ splashes – a bit more like radio in pictures? 

But that’s not the kind of work that creatives necessarily like to produce and equally it’s not the work that clients are demanding or indeed signing off. So that’s a bit of a contradiction in my opinion: I’d say either go full force down the measurement route and do activation-heavy posters or go for beautifully art-directed posters that build brands long term. Did The Economist actually sell more copies at the newsstand in each week that the fabulous David Abbott posters ran? I wonder.

New audience research by outdoor media analytics firm Route gives us a lot of new insights into where outdoor works, with whom and with what kind of advertising formats. As experts in people’s mobility, we have never been so well placed to help advertisers reach their consumers in exactly the right environments.

Mike Baker
Chief executive
Outdoor Media Centre
43-45 Dorset Street

Telephone: 020 7224 3786
Email: mbaker@outdoormediacentre.org.uk
Website: www.outdoormediacentre.org.uk



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