Outdoor and mobile are a natural marriage

10 Jun 2013  |  Shaun Gregory 
Shaun.Gregory

Telefónica's global director of advertising, Shaun Gregory, argues that as advertising technology starts to ramp up, every form of media will be brought kicking and screaming into the new world. But for the outdoor and mobile environments, where a promising new partnership is blossoming, we need to ensure that the 'natural marriage' is not just one of convenience...

I've long been intrigued by the impact of technology on the advertising market. Since the inception of search, there's been a plethora of solutions and technology, which has essentially turned a dark art into a clinical science.

The days of marketers guessing which half of their budget is effective, are long over. Most marketers have a range of tools available to them, in most cases providing real time data on campaign performance and optimisation.

To date, much of those advances have been made through online, and multiple screens that have since followed - tablets, smartphones and the many devices that sit somewhere in between.

However, that trend is now moving in on the last 'bastions' of the advertising market, through things like Connected TV and Digital Out Of Home.

What's even more interesting is that we're beginning to see the merging across media channels as 'two and two equals five'. This is where I think we're headed with Mobile and Outdoor.

Historically, and when digital encroaches on traditional analogue, we've seen value destroyed. Take newspapers, and classifieds in particular, as the ultimate test case. Commercial Radio isn't far behind, as the revenue growth remains static against a backdrop of increasing need for investment into digital channels, in particular DAB.

Mobile advertising in the UK has virtually reached the same levels of commercial radio media spend, whilst the sector has continued to pump more cash into new digital channels. TV will be learning many lessons, with the advent of social and the connected consumer, and remains in a strong position to take advantage.

However, when you stand back and look at what technology is doing to static old outdoor, the future looks very rosy. When you add mobile to that mix, it looks altogether exciting.

For me the most effective and simple example of this is the Pennies for Life campaign by the Microloan foundation. The charity helps women in Africa to set up their own small businesses and on a digital poster site in London, unfinished portraits of African women are made entirely of pennies.

Passers-by were invited to complete each picture by texting a donation to the poster, along with their name. The user's SMS activated on-screen animation and their donation dropped into place as an animated shower of coins, adding to the unfinished portrait.

From one poster site, in its first weekend, 21 women in Africa who had nothing now have their own small businesses.

Another shining example was the Lynx 'Angles will Fall' campaign. Part of the campaign used an experiential digital poster in Victoria station, which showed passer-bys to appear on screen with an Angel falling to their feet.

The campaign used Location Based Messaging to drive footfall to the station to encourage engagement with the experiential outdoor poster making the OOH have greater impact.

What's interesting about this is how we are seeing the role for mobile as complementary to deliver greater impact, especially when you see location-based services (LBS) are gradually achieving mainstream market acceptance.

Berg Insight estimates that the number of active users of location-based services and apps grew 80 per cent in 2012. About 40 per cent of mobile subscribers in Europe were frequent users of at least one location-based service, and it's one of the emerging themes driving mobile advertising spend, particularly across developed markets like Europe.

With both the Pennies for Life and Lynx campaigns, there was a clear marriage with both forms of media supporting and supplementing each other. It made the campaigns come to life, it gave the consumer an opportunity to participate and ultimately delivered the communication in an engaging and effective way.

In a world where we are bombarded by thousands of messages, relevancy will become the new 'currency'. The average person is served over 1,700 banner ads per month (source: comScore). Therefore brands and agencies will be willing to pay a premium for increased targeting, as they understand the positive impact on ROI. This is where data starts to play a part and become increasing important.

Outdoor and Mobile bring more than just a unique marriage - they offer the industry an opportunity to change the mechanics around pricing, targeting and ultimately attribution. In the world of 'clutter' this is more than just great targeting.

It's about being able to serve the right ad, at the right time and in the right context. Of course we all care about that, but how many forms of media (outside of online of course) truly afford you that opportunity? In addition, Outdoor and Mobile can do for 'out of home', what the internet has done for 'in home'.

It can also go much further as well, especially as mobile payments start to become mainstream, and the mobile device starts to take its true place as the 'remote control for your life'. In 2017, 53 per cent of all point of sale terminals worldwide will be NFC-ready (source: Berg Insight).

There are other numerous benefits that could also be unlocked, like giving small and medium enterprises the opportunity to buy into out of home - essentially the ability to buy truly local at a time that suits their business, and indeed their budget.

The 'long tail' is a very real opportunity and most research proves that localised forms of media are more attractive to consumers. The O2 and Vivo Loyalty propositions (Priority Moments and Vivo Valoriza) in the UK and Brazil prove that when you open up platforms for local businesses, it's both effective and appealing.

So, I'll finish where I started: with the technology. As ad tech starts to ramp up, every form of media will be brought kicking and screaming into the new world. Some are reluctant, some will embrace, but one thing is for sure - you can't avoid it.

Much is being done within the outdoor and mobile environments to ensure that this natural marriage isn't one of convenience. It's a unique and exciting opportunity, embraced by all the players, who will actively accelerate the change for the benefit of consumers and advertisers. Early days, but the signs are encouraging.

Shaun Gregory is the global director of advertising for Telefónica Digital, board director at WEVE and a non executive of Ocean Outdoor

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