We know outdoor is great, but how can it also be good? We appreciate its impact as a powerful ad medium, but what could the industry do more of to be a force for good in the wider world? We’re talking about its impact on society, communities, human connections and cohesion, the environment, aesthetics, utility – and everything else.
Some companies, such as Clear Channel, our partner in the Outdoor Media Awards (OMAs), are taking this issue seriously, but much more can be achieved. We asked the 2018 OMA judges to apply their razor-sharp brains to the task and we’ll run their answers over the next two months. Who knows where it might lead?
Ali Jones, chief customer officer, The Co-Operative Food
What if… the OOH industry could provide housing and support for the nation’s homeless? What if the outdoor industry joined together with the aim to provide a warm bed and an address to help homeless people apply for employment, bank accounts and support to get their lives back on track?
Today, we see too many vulnerable people of all ages homeless, living in bus shelters, doorways and on the roadside near OOH units. With the OOH market worth more than £1bn, surely this industry, with the support of its partners and clients, can make a difference? What if it worked in partnership with The Big Issue – experts in supporting the homeless… what amazing initiatives could this create?
All OOH companies work closely with local authorities, councils, TfL and other transport organisations; combining efforts and resources would make a significant difference.
This is one way OOH can be good – and great.
Richard Morris, CEO, Initiative UK, and president, Initiative EMEA
What if… our future streets were illuminated by the sea? Specifically, the bioluminescent algae and bacteria that have enormous potential as viable alternatives to electricity in illuminating the OOH sites of the future.
Start-ups like Glowee and designers such as Teresa Van Dongen are pioneers in bioluminescence, taking the first steps towards
an energy revolution that could see beautifully illuminated, yet electricity-free OOH sites across the globe. The benefits go beyond electricity consumption: bioluminescence can also bring a significant reduction in light pollution throughout our towns and cities. Now that would be a bright future.
Joanna Lyall, managing director, Mindshare UK
What if... outdoor media changed the public opinion of advertising’s value forever? All OOH media owners should pledge to ensure wherever they have a placement, they improve and enhance the surroundings – without exception. Bringing light to poorly lit streets to make people feel safer, colour to run-down areas and free connectivity everywhere.
OOH can deliver localised discovery that supports the community, facilitating the long tail of smaller shops, startups and micro businesses to benefit from the power of OOH in their growth.
OOH can play a role in showcasing and encouraging exploration by taking new tech everywhere in the UK, creating opportunities to play and discover. Every site should be digital and every site should be connected.
Clare Peters, executive director, head of planning, Manning Gottlieb OMD
What if… OOH was "more tree"? Mayor of London Sadiq Khan chose OOH as his weapon of choice to educate Londoners on the scale of air pollution in the city last year. Why wouldn’t you? It’s a perfect audience, environment and context. Which got me thinking…
OOH targets people as we travel around the country by car, train, taxi and the Tube – polluting the environment as we go. What if OOH was "more tree" – if the technology was developed to absorb the pollution from the air? This would give every OOH poster the opportunity to be a tree; to give it another reason for being. Which would mean every poster around the country becomes a force for good.
This isn’t about one contractor doing good, but the whole medium acting as one. The technology already exists and was first used in 2014. Nanotech enabled an OOH poster to ‘eat’ particles of titanium dioxide, absorbing the poisonous compounds from 20 cars a day. And here’s the good news: the extra cost is less than £100 per poster.
Guess what? That’s far less than the average cost of planting a tree.
Stephanie Marks, managing director, Havas Media UK
What if… outdoor made the most of being one of the few broadcast channels that still has a local feel about it? With the Western world becoming an ever-more homogenous mass of noise, people are increasingly turning to their immediate community to feel part of something meaningful. It’s a huge opportunity for the OOH industry.
I live in Streatham. There are two massive screens at the bottom of Streatham Common that you can see for miles. High traffic, high dwell-time and, as a local, I clock every campaign on there twice a day – so, all in all, fab sites. Well, fab to me because I love advertising, but these sites have proved polarising in my community. They glow so brightly and are so large that you can almost see the electricity burning and the pound signs ticking over.
I would love to see the industry working for communities; finding innovative ways to benefit areas’ green credentials. Solar power, dual-purpose screens, sites that enable charitable donations to be made, sites that dedicate time to local businesses and the community… Let this be the year OOH reclaims its place as the ground-breaking media platform.
CLEAR CHANNEL UK & ACCOUNTABILITY
Our sustainability aspirations are incorporated into all areas of our business. There’s always more to do, but so far we have:
• Cut both our carbon footprint by 50% and car fleet emissions by 30% since 2008
• Sourced 100% of our electricity from renewable sources, powering everything from our offices to poster illumination
• Ensured 99.8% of our waste avoids landfill
• Planted and maintained urban trees
• Partnered wirh Trees for Cities, Keep Britain Tidy and WWF to support their environmental efforts
We continually work towards making towns and cities better places to visit, work and live. Every day we are:
• Cleaning and maintaining UK bus shelters
• Decluttering streets, replacing hundreds of phone boxes with fewer, better digital kiosks
• Providing free public WI-FI with Virgin Media
• Maintaining community gardens
• Building new ad structures with architectural inspiration taken from their surroundings
• Partnered with The Prince's Trust, London's Air Ambulance and Missing People to support their vital work for the public