Putting the OOH factor back into advertising

More accurate audience measurement tools and new technology could make out-of-home the in-vogue channel.

CBS Outdoor
The Great Gatsby’s latest incarnation advertised through CBS Outdoor

In today’s cash-strapped world, marketers are under pressure to deliver big campaigns with smaller budgets. Accountability has become as important as creativity, which is why there are great hopes for out-of-home (OOH) marketing.

The sector has a new research database, bulging with over 19 billion digitally gathered data sets, as well as new metrics such as ‘realistic opportunity to see’ and ‘likelihood to see’ from research body Route, formerly Postar. It has promised to make outdoor the most accountable media channel, and marketers have welcomed the new system – and the prospect of the insight it could provide.

“Improved accountability is not to be feared,” says Andrea McQuaid, head of brand marketing at mineral water brand Highland Spring. “[More accurate] planning metrics build confidence and while new information might see some clients move budgets away from OOH, my view is that the industry can be assured of new entrants and improved spend through better data.”

Historically, environment has been the key indicator of audience for OOH, for example supermarket six-sheet posters for reaching shoppers, or the London Underground for commuters. McQuaid says there has been little else to provide deeper audience analysis until now.

“Being able to target by audience is the most exciting output from Route,” she adds. “OOH has traditionally been excellent at providing a ‘broadcast’ element [with wide reach] at a regional level and also at picking off specific environments. If this tool means the guarantee of a discrete audience delivery, then it becomes a robust and defendable media choice, with a positive impact on tailored creative.”

Once the audience modelling data is in hand, the next question for marketers is how best to utilise the format creatively. This is where TV is thought to deliver superior levels of brand engagement but there are numerous examples of successful poster campaigns – The Economist’s ‘White out of red’ campaign being a prominent one.

A great outdoor campaign can stick in the mind, says Mark Thomson, international managing director at Royal Mail Group. He recalls the launch of Super Glue, which advertised using a car stuck to a 48-sheet display, and a car security product advertised on the back of a bus. The poster read: ‘Crook Lock: block his knock-off’.

“Out-of-home done well can be a knockout,” says Thomson. “Nowadays, of course, people can share a great line on social media. With [that] and new technology it’s an extremely exciting time.”

Over a third of consumers (37 per cent) are likely to tweet after seeing an ad on a poster or screen, while six out of 10 responses to an OOH advert are online, according to an OOH consumer survey by Posterscope.

Digital OOH (DOOH) has also made inroads. Three years ago, digital screens accounted for around 7 per cent of the UK outdoor sector’s revenue. By 2011, that had risen to 14.4 per cent, or almost £128m, according to trade body Outdoor Media Centre (OMC).

Lynx Apollo Astronaut
Lynx Apollo Astronaut

The Olympics was always going to provide a tipping point for DOOH because of people’s desire for real-time information and the location of the audience as events were taking place. There was concern that a post-Olympics dip would follow, but that has not materialised.

In the first quarter of 2013, outdoor revenues grew 0.1 per cent year on year to £213.2m. Although essentially flat, on the back of the Olympic year this marked the seventh quarter of consecutive growth in the outdoor medium. Revenues in the digital sector, meanwhile, grew to £43.1m, up 21 per cent year on year. OMC says advertisers across many categories have explored new ways to use digital advertising, and media owners have continued to invest in OOH.

Car maker Vauxhall is one of these. Head of brand Martin Lay says: “It’s been a vital ingredient for us as part of recent Mokka, Adam and Cascada [car model] launches. However, it will always depend on whether the creative route is best supported by that medium.

“We’re always exploring new OOH approaches within digital but also within the ‘conventional’ ads; for instance, our use of ‘tilted’ posters in support of our ‘Don’t blend in’ launch campaign for Mokka.” The outdoor posters were deliberately set at an angle.

Outdoor media companies have also been investing in large ad formats. Last month, Ocean unveiled a huge screen at Glasgow’s St Enoch shopping centre, while Waterloo station in London will be home to a giant 40-metre long screen thanks to JCDecaux.

That so much time and money has been spent on Route is, according to OMC, testament to the health of the outdoor sector. Of course, Route does not deliver information on campaign impact, as Brett Harding, managing director at London dating company Lovestruck, points out.

“While Route offers us a far more sophisticated profile of our consumers, including details about their attitudes, behaviour, lifestyle, working status and route-to-work information, it is effectively a planning system rather than a monitoring and measurement tool. It doesn’t change how response is measured and until media owners change the way they trade, the full impact on returns on investment of this data will not be seen.”

Some brands still use simple metrics to determine how an OOH campaign has done. Cashback website Quidco is a relative newcomer to the channel, running its first campaign in 2011 with media partner Ubiquitous.

“As an online brand, our core activity had been below the line,” explains Quidco head of marketing Stuart Brann. “Two years ago, we made our first foray into TV and radio, but it became apparent that a missing constituent was OOH. With budgets restricted, we had to be sure we could justify spend, so we used a simple ‘how did you hear about us’ drop-down menu during registration.

“We found that the value of customers joining after seeing outdoor ads is substantially higher than below-the-line marketing – three to four times higher. Now the challenge is to drive volume.”

Other marketers are using improvements in technology around OOH to provide a clearer picture of how campaigns have done. The Lynx brand, which has a young demographic, is perfect for DOOH. Its latest campaign was for Lynx Apollo.

Created and produced by Grand Visual, the activity included a staged digital OOH campaign with an interactive digital six-sheet campaign promoting a competition to win a trip to space. Touchscreen posters in bus shelters and shopping malls encouraged passers-by to take a picture and put themselves in the creative as the astronaut, which could be shared on Facebook.

Mark Aschmann, Lynx brand manager at Unilever UK, says the beauty of DOOH campaigns is that they can be closely integrated with broader online and social platforms and can therefore generate and capture rich data across multiple touchpoints. The more information Aschmann has at his fingertips, the more chance he has to convince those holding the purse strings that OOH is worth the investment.

“With the Apollo campaign, we were able to measure how many people interacted with the campaign, how many submitted their photos, and how many posted the content to their social media channels. We also captured email and mobile data and social media fans, which can help us to continue conversations in the future,” he explains.

“The more we can demonstrate returns on investment, the more we can invest in the medium. Improved data quality will help us to become more sophisticated in our targeting and better understand audience behaviour, so we can develop the ways in which we engage with them based on their own terms and preferences.”

The latest…

Microsoft 365 ad at Euston Station
Microsoft 365 ad ‘dominates’ Euston station

The IMAX, the Liverpool Media Wall and the Two Towers East and West are a few examples of sites that have enabled out-of-home (OOH) advertising to wow consumers. Outdoor advertising has undergone a transformation and many new sites have full-motion, Wi-Fi enabled, large-format screens that can broadcast moving images and content in real time and interact with audiences, matching content to those in the vicinity.

According to Posterscope, 42 per cent of consumers believe brands using real-time content ads are more innovative and up-to-date, while 34 per cent say using this type of ad means brands are making an effort to talk to consumers.

Andrea McQuaid, head of brand marketing at Highland Spring, says the opportunity to use digital OOH as part of a social media strategy – updating live with Twitter feeds, Facebook, Instagram images and Blippar – means that the medium can “attract expenditure that previously would never have gone to OOH”.

Smartphones and social media have made consumers less inhibited. “Consumers want interaction,” says Microsoft UK marketing director Paul Davies. “There’s a significant opportunity for OOH providers and marketers to take advantage of real-time connectivity to change the message and add social connectivity to panels.”

Last month, Microsoft UK became the first advertiser to run a ‘domination’ at Edinburgh Airport, buying up all the ad space as part of its Office 365 campaign to target influencers. It did the same at London’s Euston station (pictured).

First Direct took a similar approach. As an online brand with no real-world touchpoints, OOH has a big part to play in its marketing mix, says head of brand Matthew Higgins.

“I’ve never been able to understand why brands use a random ad on an escalator among competitors,” he says, , adding that he prefers a focused approach over a shorter space of time to interact with the right audience.

The BIG challenges

Stuart Brann
Head of marketing

The users who join us through OOH activity have the propensity to be high-value users. The biggest problem in the channel is volume driven from OOH, since it can be lower than in other marketing streams. We will be working with our OOH partners to optimise the activity we are doing and find ways in which we can increase response but not dilute the type of members we have been getting.

Andrea McQuaid
Head of brand marketing
Highland Spring

One challenge is to ensure that OOH does not lose focus on its traditional product and what it can still deliver – high levels of cover and frequency on an unavoidable medium and at a cost that compares favourably with other mainstream media channels. Traditional OOH accounts for around 80 per cent of revenue and, without this, the industry would not be able to invest as heavily in creating the digital opportunities that now exist.

Brett Harding
Managing director

Our agency [adconnection] has advised that OOH data from Route will have an effect in the future, but until we start to see changes in trading conditions, including OOH advertising space being sold at an audience level, in much the same way as TV and online are, it will have limited power to change. For now, ‘how did you hear about us’ and consumer surveys remain our go-to measurement tool for all of our OOH.

Sponsored viewpoint

Simon Harrington
UK marketing director
CBS Outdoor

CBS logo

If 2012 was a showcase for out-of-home (OOH), then 2013 may be dubbed the renaissance of outdoor advertising. Why? New state-of-the-art audience measurement, sustained digital investment and the marriage of OOH and mobile.  

Route provides outdoor the much-needed springboard to move from panels to audience. For the first time, OOH has a single currency, enabling advertisers to compare and evaluate the audience reached across multiple OOH environments and formats, giving them valuable audience insights, better targeting and greater accountability. Importantly, it places OOH on an equal footing with other media. Route can tell subscribers how many people see an advertising campaign as well as how often, and the audience can be broken down into many typologies including age, class, lifestyle and shopping habits.

Route, however, is just one piece of the audience jigsaw. There are many data inputs available to OOH media owners, from which they can build their knowledge and understanding of the diverse urban audiences roaming the great outdoors. 

But this is not straightforward. In a world of ‘big data’ it is easy to become paralysed by ‘infobesity’. The challenge is mining the data to unlock actionable commercial insights, which is very much CBS Outdoor’s core focus.

Work.shop.play, for instance, is our online research panel of 7,500 over-16s who work, shop and play in the UK’s urban areas. It quickly provides up-to-date research and insight into the urban audience’s opinions, mindsets and behaviours.

In addition, we have invested in the development of a planning tool to target London workers. Using different data sources including TGI and TouchPoints, and endorsed by the IPA, it is a media-neutral way to target those working in the capital.

Putting data aside, the other big opportunity for OOH is convergence. Smartphones have placed a remote control for life in the hands of consumers, allowing them to interact with the world around them. Almost nine out of 10 Londoners have one.

As much as dual-screening may be big for TV, the mobile platform may present as big an opportunity for OOH in the years to come – if not even bigger – and represent a real game-changer. We believe the hyper-connected consumer will enhance the impact of OOH through the multiplying effect of interactivity.

How consumers are choosing to interact – via Wi-Fi, NFC, QR codes, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook – is largely irrelevant. The fact is they are choosing to do so, and in numbers. We should remain platform-agnostic as the power is with the people.

Our job as an industry, is to understand how, why and when they are interacting, and measure the benefits for brands, as well as assisting brands to encourage and foster this two-way dialogue.

With marketers under ever greater pressure to justify spend, the quality and robust data now available in OOH should help justify existing budgets, if not assist in driving incremental revenues. The future is bright, the future is outdoor.



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