This summer has seen the return of Ocean’s Digital Creative Competition - just as digital outdoor embarks on a new era of accelerated change and brands look to double-down on their connection with audiences.
The contest, run in partnership with Campaign, stands out from the awards crowd due to the fact that it fosters innovation and creativity using the latest digital out of home tech - and then makes those ideas happen.
Winners, who will be announced at an invite-only event, streamed live online in October, will share a prize pot of £500,000 in media space across Ocean Outdoor’s premium, full-motion screens. They will then go on to have access to Ocean expertise in bringing their concept ad ideas to life.
This year, agencies and brands will be able to take advantage of Ocean’s increased investment in its screens and in more cities over the past year. Plus new technologies.
“We’re delighted to be back with the Digital Creative Competition, one of the biggest fixtures in the DOOH calendar, and it couldn’t come at a more interesting time for DOOH and for what brands can do with it,” says Ocean Outdoor joint managing director Phil Hall. “This is DOOH’s time.”
As increasing numbers of people return to the streets and shopping centres, they will be more immersed in the whole DOOH experience and able to respond to its interactivity. “The opportunities for brands to really capitalise on DOOH’s growing reach, tech developments and priming effects are huge,” Hall adds. “This is a medium that has changed enormously. The capabilities in reach, quality and tech simply aren’t comparable with what could be achieved a few years ago. For many advertisers, now is the time to reconsider DOOH.”
At the start of 2020, Ocean predicted that large format digital out of home screens would become a mainstream broadcast channel in that year, giving brands the chance to be involved in topical, water-cooler moments. It had the brand case studies and the extensive effectiveness research to prove it.
“We were half-right!” Hall says. “The pandemic swept away the chance to show content on DOOH in the way we’d planned - but it also created an environment in which the messaging on out of home screens became water-cooler moments themselves, with people sharing that content far and wide through social media. More than ever, campaigns we were running were gaining traction far beyond their physical screen locations.”
Never before has the confluence of tech-enabled screens and the appreciation of the value of shared experiences felt so important, so useful, so emotional - and so cost effective.
Whether because they were smart and cool, or clever - or because they brought people together in a collective moment of shared support or empathy - digital outdoor screens became bigger during the pandemic than they’d ever been before, as their content was amplified via social and other media.
Ocean ran collective, water-cooler moments on screens at key times of national significance - like the Queen’s Covid-19 broadcast to the nation, supporting Captain Tom and at Prince Philip’s funeral - and got involved in similar industry-wide initiatives. In April 2020, the British public could use DOOH screens to publicly thank key workers by tagging a tweet with #MyHeroes, for example. And this connecting of DOOH screens with social media started to become the norm. Says Hall: “That sense of a broader connection with the DOOH experience looks set to continue and build. Today, DOOH is poised to provide even more fame to brands than ever before. And as streets and shopping centres become more busy again, so outdoor screens will really prove their power.”
Now Ocean believes 2021 really does look like the year when DOOH is becoming a mainstream broadcast channel. Partnerships with organisations like Team GB and streaming highlights to specially-created Fanzones during the Olympics, plus the Euros and Championship League coverage, is making outdoor screens a content destination in their own right.
“What’s also so brilliant for advertisers is that outdoor ads have been proved to have a priming effect on ads elsewhere,” notes Hall. “We have multiple neuroscience studies to back that up.
“For example, Large Format Digital (LFD) ads have a positive effect in priming smaller formats later in a campaign. In TV, it’s efficient to start a campaign with as much peak as possible. The same is true in OOH - the more high-impact LFD you have, the better. The fact that it primes other media is even more reason.
“So the OOH story just gets stronger and stronger: priming and extra fame!”
Hall’s prediction is clearly not an outlier: research from Alfi predicts that digital out of home will be worth more than $50bn by 2026, ratcheting up a $10bn increase on its previous 2020 forecast.
The survey by the AI enterprise SaaS platform, which covered the US, UK, France, Germany and Asia, found 95% of ad executives believe the DOOH sector will grow in the next two years; just over half predict that growth will be dramatic. All propelled by a huge increase in digital ad spend.
Developments in technology - and our familiarity with it - are also driving the trend.
“We have always talked about the importance of technology and creativity working together in digital out of home,” says Ocean’s head of marketing and events Helen Haines. “In the past, it was said that technology was ahead of creativity and that brands and agencies weren’t quite sure how to use it, but this has changed - and this is the beauty of the opportunities for brands now.”
Recent innovations include haptics, allowing touchless interaction which everyone is much more used to these days. Lego Group employed mid-air haptics to give children the opportunity to build virtual creations on screen at Westfield Stratford, with the tech responding to intuitive hand gestures. Ocean is the first, preferred DOOH media owner in the UK to work with technology company Ultraleap to facilitate the roll out of touchless campaigns across its premium retail and city centre portfolio.
And Ocean’s DeepScreen is now available to brands. Swiss watchmaker IWC Schaffhausen is just one which has already made use of the tech innovation to great effect. Piccadilly Lights, owned by Landsec Securities and run by Ocean, used the huge live activation to show the luxury Big Pilot watch appearing to break free of the screen and rotate horizontally and vertically in front of it.
“This year’s Digital Creative Competition is the best chance ever for brands and agencies to take advantage of a contest that is different to any other,” says Haines. “It’s not about ads that have already run, we’re looking for new ideas - our tagline #allyouneedisanidea really sums it up - and then we offer the chance to have that idea brought to life and run on our premium, full-motion screens. This past year or so has proved more than ever the importance of a great idea.”
Previous winners have gone on to win five Cannes Lions, including a silver Outdoor Lion this year for Ancestry’s “The Old Piccadilly Lights” by Anomaly. “Because the competition challenges screen-led thinking and inspires the ad industry to redefine human engagement, with DOOH at the centre,” she says.
“Now, DOOH has demonstrated how it delivers brand value well beyond the physical screen, becoming one of the most amplified communications channels of the year.
“So these amplifiable ideas are the kind of concepts we’re looking for in this year’s contest. As I said, all you need is an idea and, if you win, we’ll make it happen!”
Enter the Digital Creative Competition here - closing date for entries is 5pm on September 10th 2021.