The research revolution, brought to you by Out of Home

Piccadilly Circus ()

The winner of the debate was decided by means of an audience poll and Spencer Berwin, JCDecaux’s managing director of sales, emerged as the champion. 

You can read more about it in the article here. The article quotes Berwin as saying:

“Outdoor is so smart that it reaches 98 per cent of the UK population every week. That’s more than TV. It reaches 1.5 billion eyeballs every day. That’s bigger than the population of China.

“All of those eyeballs are delivering 100 per cent above the fold. It’s the real deal. Even better than that, there are no ifs and certainly, absolutely no buts. What you see is what you get.

“And out-of-home is the new smart medium for 2015. It’s been used by brands for generations. Right now, they’re still talking and singing about it for 2015. It keeps on working. Because digital out-of-home delivers in buckets what brands want: fame.”

It’s a big statement. It’s a bold statement. It’s a bullshit statement. 

As someone who has just spent a year focussing exclusively on proving the effectiveness of Out Of Home (OOH) for an international media owner, I can honestly tell you it’s not easy to establish how those eyeballs translate into action for advertisers. 

Yes it is true that OOH is probably one of the most powerful drivers of brand fame – the ability to get brands known and give them physical presence in real life – but that attribute is largely associated with traditional OOH as opposed to Digital OOH. And whilst Digital OOH is providing advertisers with wonderful new opportunities to bring life to their creative and for consumers to directly interact with advertising or brands, its current reach and penetration is far too limited to take over the reins on delivering brand fame from traditional OOH.

Make no mistake, I’m not trying to detract from the success of OOH. It is the only offline medium that has shown pretty consistent growth in the last decade in the UK (if you exclude the blip during the financial crisis) and that growth has been delivered by a very careful and thoughtful approach in how the industry rolls out and price digital assets. 

OOH charges an enviable premium for digital stock. Here in the UK rates on digital screens can quite easily be more than four times higher than for traditional sites, add to that the fact that six or more advertisers are now squeezed onto a loop at sites previously occupied by a single client, and it quickly adds up to a nice little premium of around 2400 per cent.

That’s enough to make a digital manager at a publisher or broadcaster weep into his morning cup of coffee.

But that premium is being maintained on the basis of scarcity and the fact that digital is being rolled out at premium locations as opposed to its efficacy, which remains largely unproven. It is a precarious balance to maintain and one that is going to become increasingly difficult as OOH owners speed up the roll out of digital assets. 

Norway serves of a prime example of this. Some OOH companies here moved far too fast at rolling out digital, and the result is that they are now sitting with an oversupply of digital inventory that they are now selling at rates below that of traditional sites.

Unlike pretty much every other medium out there, OOH’s sole purpose is to serve advertising. As a result it has no direct relationship with all those eyeballs being served those “all above the fold” ad exposures, making it exceedingly difficult to establish a link between ad exposure and the impact it has. 

In the digital age OOH remains a decidedly data poor medium despite the great strides that have been made in audience measurement for the medium in recent years. So, on that basis I have to disagree with the assumption that OOH can readily claim the crown as 2015’s smart medium. 

But it is exactly this data and relationship poverty that might drive a research revolution and give credence to the smart medium claim in the very near future. 

One of more interesting projects I’ve worked on for OOH in the last year was developing a new mobile-based approach to effectiveness studies. And the potential here is absolutely mind boggling. 

In its most basic form this new approach to effectiveness uses mobile based apps (provided by either research agencies or an advertiser’s own app) to passively measure OOH advertising exposure using geo-fences or Beacons. Once you know that someone has potentially been exposed you can then serve them a short survey using traditional campaign effectiveness questionnaires to establish the impact the ad exposure has had on them. 

Crank up the capabilities that are currently possible from a technical point of view (and get the consumer’s permission to do so by agreeing to the app terms and conditions – we all read those thoroughly, right?) and the world of effectiveness pretty much becomes your oyster. 

Once you’ve established an OOH exposure you can listen in using Shazaam-type technology to establish whether they have been exposed to the campaign’s radio or TV adds. You can track whether they’ve conducted any mobile searches about the product or serve them related mobile based ads. You can monitor whether they’ve made a related post to social media. You can even track whether they have ventured into a shop selling your product if the right beacon technology is in place and, with pos data integration, you can even establish whether they’ve gone on to actually purchase the product. 

More importantly exposure to a beacon enabled OOH site could trigger content being delivered to a consumer’s mobile or advertisers can serve dynamic advertising content relevant to consumer using Digital OOH screens. 

Remember that scene from Minority Report where the billboards where talking directly to Tom Cruise’s character with bespoke offers relevant to him? Well…that just got real. 

Now that’s what I call a smart medium.

Do you agree with Marius? Let him know!

More like this

News UK study demonstrates how exposure to advertising provokes conversation

People spend eight hours a day consuming media, reports ZenithOptimedia

Ad spend in Western Europe to grow 3.5 per cent in 2015

Your first step to joining FIPP's global community of media leaders

Sign up to FIPP World x