Space and Time were one of the handful of agency partners invited to the Mediatel OOH summit 2018. An event usually reserved for Media Owners and OOH Specialists, we welcomed the invitation and sent two agency representatives along to soak up all things outdoor and feed back to the agency with new discoveries and the hot topics surrounding the out of home landscape.

Held at the ever-impressive Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), the event attracted the current leaders of industry as well as those aspiring to occupy these positions in the future.

Here are some of the key findings from the day:

  1. OOH should be used within a holistic comms strategy: not seen as siloed or disjointed. Within this integrated planning model, digital feeds the broadcast, which nourishes the social and so on. This would lead to a fairer distribution of budgets, a stronger overall campaign performance and a better understanding of effectiveness for agency planners and buyers as well as clients. We always espouse a fully integrated schedule as the most effective way to secure value from media investment. With the difficulties in tracking response on all but the largest OOH investment, it isn’t surprising that this sector is also keen to recommend an integrated approach: it’s difficult to attribute response to someone seeing a poster, but it’s invariably the case that more trackable media (search, display, print) perform more effectively when out of home is also on the schedule.
  2. It is important to make use of Milward Brown cross-media studies. This econometric research can help garner better understanding of the effect on brand metrics during and post campaign activity. Reluctance to invest in such studies can often leave an OOH campaign slightly ‘unfinished’. Learnings from these studies can then feed into other campaigns and strategies and can be shared as best practice industry/category-wide.
  3.  Hyper-personalization – Is it necessary? Should it just be used as a tactic as it is not scalable?
    In general, the panel agreed that OOH should still be considered a mass medium. We should approach campaigns with a focus on people not person. There are circumstances for very targeted campaigns but ultimately OOH is still very much a mass-reach channel. While personal, interactive experiences with posters can be valuable fodder for natty social content or the trade press, the panel were very keen to maintain that in general this remains a mass-market medium.
  4. The importance of creating bespoke catered creative rather than just re-using existing assets or the display creative. This was a real point of contention as several members of the panel had experienced being passed display creative and being expected to ‘make it work’ in an OOH environment. More often than not, this isn’t possible and a bespoke creative would need to be developed to best fit the space and environment of the OOH format. Considering the sizeable media investment being made here, tailoring a creative response that suits the medium is really just common sense.
  5.  OOH shouldn’t necessarily be used as a quick fix to deliver against footfall or consideration objectives. It is still very much a brand-building platform which requires time to achieve its ends. The ROI will be realised over time due to the balance of mass and targeted activity but it’s important to be ‘always on’ with a greater understanding of environment and audience.
  6.  The avoidance of adopting the word ‘programmatic’ into the category and instead developing a proprietary name for OOH automated buying. General sentiment was that programmatic conjures up unhelpful associations perhaps due to a lack of understanding. Nevertheless, there is an overall feeling that automation will play a part in OOH buying but it needn’t be branded or pigeonholed into the current programmatic initiative.
  7.  The measurement of effectiveness. How do we as a media agency measure the value obtained from an OOH investment? The question of accountability and effectiveness is of course essential across the industry. Proving effectiveness in the outdoor sector can be challenging. Independent evidence of success would prove valuable to the industry, to help lead the way for other advertisers. There was talk of how OutSmart should be looked at again as an OOH equivalent of ThinkBox. Ultimately, providing the same efficacy with the introduction of digital formats and their associated technologies is an area that needs to be explored.
  8.  The diversity of formats means it can be hard to determine exactly what will work and when, but having limitations as a channel are also some of the strengths of OOH. It was argued that too many messages and too much content can be overwhelming for consumers and OOH is at its best in its simplest form.

Other interesting concepts discussed regarding the “Future Cities and Technologies” segment of the day were:

  • Augmented Reality within autonomous (driverless) cars. Will we soon have the ability to collect data from cars driving past certain OOH formats and serve relevant content to the passengers in new ways?
  • Rise in Emotional Intelligence – cameras with the ability to detect emotion by reading an individual’s face and serve ads based on the emotions visible there
  • Dominant Audiences Researchers have identified that tourists (especially from China) and young people are going to be the largest, most influential audiences of the future. How advertisers and strategists tailor their messages to meet the needs of these groups will be significant.

Priorities for OOH

  • There needs to be a greater sense of what can be done creatively. Creativity and the ability to develop a better use of sites.
  • OOH should be a tool to help build brand fame and brand messaging.
  • The impact of online and its accountability. OOH needs to be more robust in its result metrics and provide greater accountability for lumpy spends.
  • An interesting point that was raised concerned the ability to open the purchase funnel for digital buyers to buy digital OOH signs and the education piece surrounding that notion. With 600m signs nationwide, scale and reach might play into digital campaigns and therefore form part of the digital plan going forward.
  • Is there room for OOH to become an impression-based traded channel? Therefore becoming more accountable as agencies can then work buys back to a CPT (Cost Per Thousand) model recognised across other channels. With the growth of facial recognition, might we eventually even work to a cost per view?

Here are some closing thoughts touched on regarding the future of OOH:

Future of OOH

  • Understanding the impact of driverless cars on the consumption of OOH media. If the target audience are now all in the backseat engaging in other content, how do we as OOH experts best engage already preoccupied potential ‘eyeballs’
  • Smarter use of client data to best deliver hyper-personalised messaging (right place, right time, right product, right person)
  • Return to the balance of long-term and short-term brand planning. With the existing ‘Return of the Brand’ there is a need for both tactical implementation and longer-term brand building focus. Working alongside clients to best develop strategic plans will help make use of the benefits of both tactical approaches.
  • What is the general sentiment of embracing programmatic buying? Overall, the feeling is that OOH should develop its own form of automation and avoid the preconceived connotations of programmatic buying. Ultimately, automation is welcomed but the need to buy on a real-time basis isn’t the be-all within the market as there remains an identified need for mass marketing.

There is clearly a massive step change imminent for the OOH industry in terms of technology and data alongside building brand fame through maintaining strong classic inventory. Exciting times ahead and we at Space and Time Media are proud to be at the forefront of the ever-changing landscape.

Uche Ofili
Account Director