Media: Double Standards - 'Anything and everything is possible' for outdoor

Digital innovation has given outdoor executions more immediacy. Two specialists reveal how the medium is embracing its new-found flexibility.

SIMON WARDELL - head of create, Clear Channel

- What's the cleverest use of outdoor you've seen in the past year?

I love Leo Burnett's interactive use of the McDonald's LED at Piccadilly Circus. This location is unique and as we've found with our Piccadilly Lite screen, advertisers are really embracing the flexibility digital offers. That the audience feels compelled to pose in front of the site and share the resulting photos online shows how powerful placing a great piece of creative in the public space can be.

- To what degree has the downturn meant that advertisers are investing less in funding creative and innovative ideas?

I'd argue the opposite is true, certainly that's our experience this year. Now more than ever advertisers are using creativity and innovation to stand out, to engage with their customers and to instil confidence in their brands.

- Is consumer interaction with posters through messaging and other means now part of the mainstream?

Absolutely. The growth of mobile marketing is an exciting development for outdoor as it offers the audience the opportunity to immediately communicate with brands. That's why we set up our Interact service, enabling users to find their nearest stockist, download vouchers and enter into dialogue with brands via a short text code.

- What single trend will most help outdoor to grow in the future?

The fact that our audience is growing and will continue to do so is a huge benefit, but a growing audience alone isn't enough, we need to ensure we continue to deliver a product which remains relevant to the consumer and has a positive impact on the brands using it. Culling our poorer performing panels to improve the overall quality of the plant while investing in digital and increased illumination will help to do that.

- What role are posters playing in working together with augmented reality features such as compasses on iPhones?

There's great scope, although our audience is increasingly sophisticated and innovation for innovation's sake will be seen as just that. Apps such as Nearest Tube on the iPhone are fantastic as they use augmented reality in a way that delivers real benefit to the user, and that's key. What needs to come first is the big idea - an idea that benefits the advertiser and the consumer. The pace that technology is moving means that when the ideas come along, we have the means to bring them to life on the streets.

- Does the poor standard of ad agency creative remain an issue for outdoor?

You've only got to look at recent examples from the likes of Heinz, Magners and Marks & Spencer to see that great posters are still being produced. People often talk of a "golden age'"of modern poster creative and cite examples such as The Economist and Wonderbra, saying: "We don't make them like that anymore." Our challenge is to ensure that posters remain front of mind within creative agencies.

- Put a case for outdoor being the most cutting-edge media channel.

Outdoor's ability to adapt to change and embrace new advances in technology and audience targeting ensures it remains as relevant and forward-thinking as ever. As a pure ad medium, it is devoted to delivering the creative message without the shackles of editorial or programming. This devotion is coupled with an unrivalled flexibility which ensures that virtually any idea can be delivered to as broad or narrow an audience as is required.

- What do you like to do "out-of-home"?

At the moment the weather's good so I spend as much time as I can on my bike. Ask me again in the winter.

SAM BIRD - HEAD OF INNOVATION, JCDECAUX

- What's the cleverest use of outdoor you've seen in the past year?

Cadbury Creme Egg's goo-the-egg game on digital six-sheets was a smash hit with the public, providing a cracking brand experience at bus shelters nationwide. We worked closely with Hyperspace at Posterscope to develop an interactive game that was perfectly aligned with the TV and online activity. Local students even had a goo league on the streets.

- To what degree has the downturn meant that advertisers are investing less in funding creative and innovative ideas?

We are seeing fewer, but bigger campaigns, highlighting that the creative use of outdoor is becoming more integrated into the overall communications strategy. Of course, the best ideas don't require the deepest pockets, as Lynx showed with a giant jeans pocket filled with bikini-clad babes at Old Street.

- Is consumer interaction with posters through messaging and other means now part of the mainstream?

Consumer mindsets are changing - witness the T-Mobile mass participation events at Liverpool Street and Trafalgar Square. We helped to amplify the events with sing-along digital bus shelters, highlighting the public's increased appetite for engaging outdoor experiences.

- What single trend will most help outdoor to grow in the future?

The mobile phone will play a huge role, but the most important trend of the moment is outdoor's new flexibility. We can provide instant turnaround on campaigns not only with our digital screens but on thousands of analogue posters using our FastFoward print hub. This immediacy has led to time-sensitive, highly tactical campaigns.

- What role are posters playing in working together with augmented reality features such as compasses on iPhones?

The new generation of phones will show where consumers are and the direction they are facing, adding an extra dimension to outdoor. However, we have already developed a new augmented reality six-sheet that brings the public into a new world of 3D brand experiences and brand tours. We are constantly evaluating new opportunities including launching the "outernet" in Tottenham Court Road, the first permanent internet site on a bus shelter.

- Does the poor standard of ad agency creative remain an issue for outdoor?

When creatives come to our annual Innovate Exhibition they are all fired up about the latest techniques and technology available in outdoor. Keeping creative teams up-to-date is our biggest challenge and that's where Rob Hesketh, our creative strategist, plays a huge role. Creatives thrive on new ideas and we try to ensure we keep them as informed as possible. How can we expect great creative work if they have no idea of what is possible?

- Put a case for outdoor being the most cutting-edge media channel.

Anything and everything is possible. We could talk about outdoor's interactive screens, new Postar, experiential capability, near field communications, augmented reality or even word-of-mouth marketing. But what really makes outdoor cutting edge is that the only limit is your imagination. And my job is to make it happen.

- What do you like to do "out-of-home"?

My family and I are always out and about, which helps me to remain inspired and creative. To really unwind I like to show my competitive spirit in tae kwon do!

- Make a pitch for outdoor being the most cutting edge medium.

Anything and everything is possible. We could talk about outdoor's interactive screens, new Postar, experiential capability, near field communications, augmented reality or even word-of-mouth marketing. But what really makes outdoor cutting edge is that the only limit is your imagination. And my job is to make it happen.

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