Helen Weisinger of Outdoor Plus: why Out of Home should be inspired by social

Over the next few weeks social media channels will be updated to reflect every significant moment of the 2018 World Cup – the goals, the joy, the sadness and the glory, all played out on our feeds in real time. But what most marketers don’t realise is that they could be using out of home in the same way.

In a past life, I worked in digital marketing. I was fascinated to see how social media transformed the media landscape; shifting the bar from the delivery of one big idea to a continuous stream of creative. Then I moved into the world of media ownership, specifically OOH. It was a shock to the system. I came from an environment where clients expected and demanded dynamic, reactive content, to one where it was assumed that a billboard was still limited to a single piece of creative.

There’s a huge chasm between the capabilities of digital OOH in particular and how it’s currently being used. Marketers need to catch up with technology and have the same expectations of OOH as they do social media, using it to serve up relevant, of-the-moment content. It certainly shouldn’t be the norm to show the same poster, in the same place, week after week. A digital agency would be fired if they delivered one tweet a fortnight – why shouldn’t the same rules apply to OOH?

Lack of knowledge is one of the key reasons we’re seeing DOOH’s capabilities neglected. “I never knew you could do that” is a phrase I’ve heard so many times over the last year. People already know you can’t skip, avoid or block OOH – what they often don’t know is that you can be agile with it too.

Here’s how this can work in practice. Radio makes a perfect partner for DOOH campaigns, with a dynamic feed allowing links between stations and billboard sites. A custom built code can simultaneously trigger screen creative to be displayed when a song from a particular artist is playing, remaining for the duration of the track’s airplay.

OOH is often still thought of in isolation, but cross-platform collaboration is key to making the most of its value. Recent research by Rapport, in association with the UK’s IPA, found that using OOH within advertising campaigns increases market share growth by 36 per cent, boosts profit growth by 20 per cent and attracts 15 per cent more new customers compared to campaigns that don’t use the medium.

Again, using radio, you can sync adverts playing with DOOH screens – a tactic recently used by British Airways. Likewise, marketers can link social media with DOOH – as shown in the recent #ReclaimSocial campaign we ran with tech-for-good platform Lightful, aimed at challenging the negativity on social media and calling for an end to fake news, bots and trolls. Digital screens showcased live tweets from the #ReclaimSocial feed, pulling live tweets directly to the creative on the screens, via a moderator.

This is just the tip of the outdoor iceberg. As well as reflecting significant sporting moments and utilising newsfeeds to display the latest headlines, there’s weather activation (recently used by Google Outside), where copy adjusts depending on weather, or a campaign which will only play when specific weather criteria is met and traffic activation, where screens use traffic API data to determine copy. DOOH can deliver different messages, to different audiences, at different times of day, at specific locations and can be bought in flexible time slots. It can even link marketing activity to real-time sales data. The list is really as long as the marketer’s imagination.

As social media continues to weather current controversies and attract more from marketing budgets against the odds, it’s time to wake up to the fact that for more ‘traditional’ channels to succeed, we need to think differently. We need to stop viewing DOOH as a traditional channel using media technology and start viewing it as an entirely new channel for reaching audiences in a unique, dynamic and very public way. Marketers, let’s get OOH strategies out of the dark ages, and into today’s digital world.

Helen Weisinger is chief client officer of Outdoor Plus.

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