Campaign Promotion: Media Essays - Consumers will value real-time interaction

More people are spending time out-of-home than ever before. Providing them with up-to-date information is a challenge for both online and offline media owners.

The X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing? It's a dilemma. It has been a long time since Saturday night TV had such a fierce battle for viewers. Has the misery of 2009 been so great we are relying on spotlights and sequins to get us through it?

The latest wave of the Moody Britain research from McCann Erickson suggests the country's values are shifting, and TV viewing crystallises this trend.

The huge success of shows such as Britain's Got Talent are in direct contrast to Channel 4's decision to axe Big Brother, with the agency's research showing the public is becoming increasingly interested in people with genuine talent, rather than those who become famous for being famous.

This cultural shift can also be seen in consumers' expectations of brands. Brands are no longer seen as mere status symbols; instead, people want their brands to be genuine and authentic.

Supermarkets are now considered the most trusted UK institutions - they have taken the lead by reacting to consumers' needs. Price-comparison ads, promoting the quality and value of their own ranges, meals for a fiver, and using staff in advertising all aid the retailers to get closer to consumers.

But it is not just about the supermarkets' message; it is the speed at which they convey their message to the consumer. They are listening to their customers and reacting accordingly. And consumers expect everything at lightning speed, with the online world making "instant" ever-more achievable. If we don't get what we want immediately, an alternative is just a click away.

As people try to cram more and more into their daily lives, they are desperately seeking up-to-the-minute information on products, people and events - price comparison websites have popped up in every sector this year.

But as we go into 2010, it is important for media owners and advertisers to remember this is not just the preserve of the online world. The trend for consumers relying on information in real time will only increase, and they will start to expect it across their entire lives, not just from digital media.

Media convergence means there will soon be just two main media platforms: a screen at home or in the office and a screen out of home, either static or digital. Consumers will receive all their media through one of these platforms, and the platform that will tie everything together will be some sort of mobile hand-held device.

However, the offline world needs to pay as much attention as the online world. Outdoor, as a largely content-free environment, has only scratched the surface when it comes to offering consumers interactivity and real-time applications.

With more people spending more time out-of-home than ever before, outdoor's role in bringing content to consumers must be high on the agenda. Research from the Future Foundation shows that time spent out of home is no longer considered dead time. Consumers expect to be able to access entertainment, work and personal banking on the move - the list goes on.

The need for real-time media means these conversations must take place anywhere, at any time. Digital out-of-home is helping drive this - for example, screens can run HTML feeds, rather than relying on pre-shot video. Five US ran a campaign on the London Underground with a live feed to Times Square in New York, so commuters could see what their American counterparts were up to in real time.

However, to keep this trend fresh, brands must think beyond instant information and turn it into instant purchase to make it commercial. And this is where traditional media - not just digital - can win. Media owners must be able to innovate their traditional offering to bring real-time information to consumers.

Photo recognition and quick response (QR) codes already make this possible and in 2010, advertisers must embrace the possibilities out-of-home can achieve, bringing critical mass and a new way to target consumers in controlled environments.

They must make it the norm for consumers to take a picture of a barcode on a poster using their mobile, and then be sent information on price comparisons of the product and the nearest store they can buy it from.

Consumers are seeking authentic solutions that add value to their lives. Next year will be about advertisers harnessing that - but beyond the mere realms of digital media.

Using the possibility of outdoor to deliver an audience in various mindsets throughout the day will fuel the need to find a killer mobile application that will make this advertising a way of life in the future.

And for the record, it's Strictly Come Dancing all the way.

- Martin Porter is the head of voice at CBS Outdoor.