What MWC 2016 means for outdoor advertisers
Posterscope's Nick Halas is back from Barcelona and says 2016 is going to be a transformative year for out-of-home.
Mobile World Congress (MWC) has evolved into one of the biggest consumer technology showcases in the world. Mobile technology is increasingly becoming part of everyday behaviours, greatly impacting how consumers engage with each other.
As mobile increasingly drives societal behaviour, it's changing the way individuals interact with brands. Mobile is having a huge impact in advertising sectors - not least out-of-home (OOH) advertising.
This year's MWC demonstrated a market readiness for technology which has been emerging over the last few years in prototype and early stage forms, including major developments for connected devices.
Major focus areas included wearables, home security and smart cities, alongside with proof of the evolution of not just connected cars, but also almost any connected device you can think of: including the 'connected cow' (a genuine agricultural innovation), as well as some which are equally innovative, if (in my opinion), somewhat creepy, like Sony's Xperia Ear.
This tidal wave of change promises to be transformational for everyone involved in the OOH ecosystem, particularly for the digital OOH sector. Here are some key themes that I believe our industry needs to address following this year's MWC:
1. Alliances are powerful
Partnerships are one of those things that are very easy to discuss and propose, but much harder to actually turn into a real success. However, the tech giants and major consumer brands are clearly understanding that the need to come together and collaborate is more important than ever in creating positive change.
This was apparent throughout the show - for example, Lenovo and Google's Project Tango - a next generation operating system and product set. Or Volvo and Ericsson's connected vehicle, and in the luxury goods market Tag Heuer and Intel's new smart watch. 'Luxury brand plus tech giant' is an equation we'll see more of, certainly.
For the OOH industry, we're already starting to reap the benefits of a more collaborative approach. In the US, the NYC Link project is a great demonstration of how OOH has redefined its principles by building in public utility, via free Wi-Fi for the entire NY population.
By looking outside its core, the OOH industry can deliver solutions that increasingly become part of consumer utility, engagement and connectivity, without losing the opportunity to engage with target audiences
2. Connectivity, connectivity, connectivity
MWC is a barometer event. It shows us evolving trends, and provides an indication as to if and when certain trends are going to take off. Of everything on display at the Congress this year, it's the continued evolution of IoT that probably holds the most for OOH advertisers.
These developments suggest OOH advertisers will be better able to interact and engage with people by using beacons, image recognition or device pairing. I expect to see this extend into CRM and payments, (witness Visa's expansion of its Visa Ready Program), as well as into the automobile sector as both connected cells - the car and the poster site - will be able to communicate with each other.
In short, we'll see far greater collaboration with digital and mobile campaigns, both as an extension network and as a platform for the delivery of dynamic personalised messaging, all of which will build on OOH's ability to deliver fame and attention for brands.
In this regard, 'mobile' refers less to the handset, and instead to whichever device, or 'thing' within the Internet of Things that the consumer has with them.
3. Audience insight
New levels of connectivity across a vast and expanding number of connected devices is set to act as a springboard for far deeper levels of consumer insight. For OOH advertisers, this has tremendous implications for both the targeting of campaigns and increasing the impact of messaging through the right contextual message being delivered at the right time, and in the right place.
From our own experience, we're already seeing vastly improved processes through partnerships with EE, XAd and Locomizer. These provide an incredible new layer of understanding of micro-location data, which informs greater insights about the OOH consumer. Increasingly this insight will not just fuel the traditional OOH space, but will help in evaluating the experiential event space as well.
The increased application and adoption of small cell technology through population movement and audience segmentation data will provide significantly more robust research and evaluation systems into events. Additionally, CRM connectivity with mobile devices will enable OOH advertisers to begin to track and evaluate campaigns, and traffic attribution post-event.
4. VR and events: a match made in technology heaven
Virtual Reality, (VR), is not new, and in fact we have already used it in several experiential campaigns. However, the move toward mass market adoption changes the game, and the renewed focus on VR built to a fever pitch at this year's MWC, driven in no small part by the hardware announcements from major, global, technology superbrands.
Several new products were updated and launched early on, including HTC's Vive and LG's new VR headset.
Additionally, Samsung's Gear 360 camera will capture VR videos, (although LG's device boasts an incredible 70 hours of video recording, which will take some beating); but perhaps most significantly, Samsung announced its Gear VR headsets will be provided free with all pre orders of the S7 and S7 Edge handsets.
Facebook announced the creation of a VR team, dedicated to creating new ways for people to have social experiences in VR.
The mainstream drive means greater ability for technology to create immersive experiences for consumers, but we need to keep quality at the core. Any new technology is only ever as good as its weakest public solution, and if brands use VR badly, everyone risks getting stung.
5. Infrastructure imbalance
It's easy to read the road ahead as incredibly positive, but there is word of warning. Despite optimism at events like MWC, there's an undercurrent of uncertainty. Technology is always a gamble, and several major tech giants have gone through tough times recently as investment wasn't made at the right time.
In the coming years the OOH industry will face the same parallels. The increasing sophistication of existing technology and the birth of new platforms, along with increasing digital infrastructure and more connectivity will require major level investment.
We're already seeing this investment from several of the bigger media owners - but as MWC's evolution demonstrates, keeping pace with technological change can be a tough order to fill.
The world is on the cusp of some very exciting new technologies, which will have a tremendous transformative impact on the OOH industry - as seen at this year's Congress. We need to be ready for change, and if we get it right the future for OOH looks very bright indeed.
Nick Halas is head of futures at Posterscope
Mediatel operate two essential services for the OOH industry. SPACE is a collaboration between IPAO and Outsmart and is the most comprehensive and up-to-date list of inventory in the UK. The RouteAPI is a SaaS solution that enables easy integration of Route audience data into client's systems. See mediatel.co.uk for more information.