Are the smaller players driving innovation in OOH?

By Arif Durrani,, Thursday, 18 July 2013 08:00AM

Does outdoor's transition, from paper and paste to digital, favour the newer, nimbler operators, Arif Durrani asks.

Are the smaller players driving innovation in OOH?
Lindsay Jamie

YES Jamie Lindsay, managing director, Amscreen

"It’s the smaller, more versatile operators who aren’t encumbered by their need to balance digital versus traditional estates that are able to push the limits and break new ground. We are now challenging the norms."
Berwin Spencer

NO Spencer Berwin, managing director - sales, JCDecaux

"Apple, Google, Facebook, JCDecaux. It’s not the size of the company but entrepreneurial spirit that counts. Innovation is what JCDecaux was built on, from location-based trending messages for Spotify to our new Twitter-driven book club."
Wilson Glen

MAYBE Glen Wilson, managing director, Posterscope

"Smaller players tend to be quicker to market with more experimental technologies and alternative thinking. The larger players, however, invest very heavily in scalable innovation, which is a critical ‘engine’ for the medium."
Mawditt Nick

NO Nick Mawditt, director of insight and marketing, Talon Outdoor

"It’s great to see many of the smaller operators driving innovation but, with all the technology and engagement opportunities, it’s not surprising. However, the big players continue to invest, innovate and showcase smart work."

There’s no denying that out-of-home is on a roll. In the first half of 2013, the sector achieved its long-stated goal of becoming a 10 per cent medium (in terms of its share of national advertising spend), saw its £19 million investment in Route research come to fruition and enjoyed more headlines about innovation than ever before.

Ask members of the public what OOH advertising means to them and they will just as likely cite digital screens in the Underground, petrol station forecourts or airports as they would large roadside posters.

But is this dichotomy between the old and the new actually masking a two-tier business – with the world of paper and paste, and what is essentially a real-estate business, on the one side; and the smaller, technology-led enterprises on the other?

The ideas and executions on show at the launch of the LoveContent innovation awards last week certainly demonstrated high levels of ingenuity.

Work for Compassion in World Farming was a case in point. The campaign, by the ad agency 18 Feet & Rising, enabled people to feed pigs on an organic farm in return for a donation to the charity through a digital billboard and the technology in their mobile phones.

There are plenty of other examples of real innovation, from Ocean’s neuroscience work to Amscreen’s eye-tracking OptimEyes offer and Eye’s mobile and outdoor partnership for its "virtual Tesco store" at Gatwick.

Outdoor Media Centre’s chief executive, Mike Baker, says: "There are certainly plenty of campaigns being executed that no-one would have thought possible even a year ago."

However, it would be unfair to overlook Clear Channel’s Adshel 2.0 and its near field communication-enabled interactive offering, JCDecaux’s Live experiential service or CBS Outdoor’s user-gen­erated content initiatives in Westfield and on the Tube.

The new, smaller operators have helped to make digital the fastest-growing and most exciting area of the OOH sector. As they move closer to online and mobile businesses, are the biggest players lagging behind?

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