Ad TechAdvertisersAgenciesAnalysisCreativeFinanceMediaNewsResearchSocial MediaSponsoredTechnology

Ocean UK CEO Phil Hall: why I’m bullish about the future of Out of Home

1/The Out of Home industry seems to have recovered well from the pandemic and subsequent economic difficulties with money flooding into digital and also some outstanding creative work in both digital and classic. How do you see the next five years developing?

I’m very bullish about the future of OOH, both in the short and long-term. When I look across the media ecosystem I see some significant challenges for other media, whether it be around trust, ad-fraud, audience or environment. Some of these headwinds are significant and are already impacting spend. However, when I look at OOH it’s a different story. This is a medium that is demonstrably stronger than it was a few years ago and it’s getting better. More screens (often of a higher quality), better creative work, better tech and data and more opportunity for consumers to interact and get value from the experience. Furthermore, many consumers are active and sophisticated ad-avoiders. That presents a real challenge for clients but in OOH they have a solution that consumers can’t ignore.

2/There is much talk of OOH being marooned on a 5% share of the global ad market. Is this a cause for concern? How do you think the industry can raise its share?

Given everything I’ve said above, it has to be a cause for some concern. However, it’s important to look at the context. For most of the last decade the explosion in audience and routes to market has meant that digital media has taken all the growth in advertising spend. There’s also been a considerable focus on performance media. Given this, it’s not that surprising that the share for OOH has failed to increase, despite there being a plethora of reasons as to why it should grow. However, both the focus on performance and digital growth has slowed dramatically over the last couple of years, as OOH has seen rising audience numbers and that better product I referenced.

It’s my hope and belief that there will be a reappraisal of OOH in the media mix and the market share will rise accordingly. We’re already seeing that reappraisal from many clients and media agencies. I regularly hear planners and buyers opining that ‘not all impacts are the same’ and referring to the attention economy and the quality of an engagement. As well as being music to my ears, I think this is sound strategy and will gain more traction.

3/Programmatic buying is becoming more of a factor in OOH. Do you see this as a positive development or does it underestimate high impact media like Ocean?

The clue is in the question! There’s no doubt that programmatic is a positive development for OOH. It provides buyers with more choice, more targeting and adds another dimension to our medium. There’s some fantastic work being done on the buy-side, especially by the OOH specialists, introducing new clients to the medium and driving business results. When I see programmatic OOH being done well it’s clearly additive to our industry.

However, there’s a lot of misconception and some opinions that are just plain wrong. I still hear programmatic OOH being spoken of in the same breath as digital display in some quarters and this is a false comparison. I understand the logic – ‘online display has taken all that growth so if we make our medium seem and sound as much like online as possible then maybe the billings will flow our way…?’ However, these are different media used in different ways. Using data triggers to serve ads in DOOH is great but let’s not forget that OOH is and always will be a one-to-many medium. Maybe that’s been unfashionable over the last decade of hyper-targeting and personalisation but it’s not a hindrance to our medium – it’s a superpower. There is a real value of talking to everyone in a community at the same time in the same tone (the recent Nationwide campaign springs to mind) and OOH needs to celebrate this.

High impact media is becoming increasingly scarce and needs to be valued. There’s no comparison between a shopper viewing a brand message on a 55 square metre full motion digital screen before walking into Westfield and seeing the same message as they scroll on their phone, or seeing a lower quality small format OOH screen in another environment for that matter. High quality media in the best locations has always carried a premium and rightly so.

4/Recently we’ve seen a seeming reduction in the number of OOH specialist agencies, in some markets at least. Is this a problem for the medium? Do mainstream media agencies have sufficient expertise?

I don’t see this as a problem for the medium at all – it’s just an evolution that reflects the way that OOH is planned and bought. What’s really important is that specialism exists; the expertise and experience to ensure the clients’ budget is spent in an optimal way. I’ve seen no sign of this diminishing – quite the opposite. For our medium to grow it’s vital that OOH is considered as part of the overall media mix, not just in isolation. For this to happen the OOH practitioners need to be as close to clients, strategists and implementation planners as possible. I see this both in the OOH teams that are part of media agencies and in the independent OOH specialists.

5/Who are the people and what are the OOH campaigns that have influenced your career?

I’ve spent the vast majority of my career on the agency side at MediaCom and one of the privileges of that experience was being able to meet experts from every medium. From an early stage the common word I’d use to describe the OOH community is ‘Passion.’ There has always been such a sense of pride in the medium, a desire to do good work and a drive to promote the industry. I saw this externally from passionate leaders such as Tim Bleakley (now my boss at Ocean), Spencer Berwin at JCDecaux, Richard Bon at Clear Channel and Naren Patel at Primesight.

I certainly saw it internally too with Gill Reid and the MediaCom OOH team whose passion inspired (and sometimes scared!) media planners. I see it all the time now I’ve crossed over to OOH, both from our customers and competitors. I don’t think you can truly succeed or enjoy your career unless you have a passion for it and what I see and feel around me today gives me great confidence for the future.

In terms of OOH campaigns there are too many to mention but if I had to pick one it would be the collaboration between Balenciaga and Fornite showcased on Piccadilly Lights and in Times Square. It was one of the early examples of DeepScreen and the 3D creative was superb. What really makes is stand out though was the extraordinary amount of social media traction that it drove – delivering huge value to the client. We’d always known that iconic OOH was widely shared, but this campaign (which sparked a rush of creativity) really made us think. It changed our business and we developed in-house capabilities around design, creative consultancy, videography and social listening and invested in research that quantifies social traction, showing this works across a range of large format DOOH. It’s creative, relevant and you can’t help but look – a great example of the power of OOH.

Phil Hall is UK CEO of Ocean Outdoor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button