Stephen Gale, sales director, ECNlive
Stephen Gale, sales director, ECNlive
A view from Stephen Gale

Think BR: Digital posters and engaging possibilities

Digital technology is once again breaking down barriers, writes Stephen Gale, sales director, ECNlive

Stroll through London’s centre this summer and as well as appreciating the buzz of the Olympic atmosphere, it’s easy grasp the scale of investment that has been made in digital out of home technology in recent years.

Digital screen technology is increasingly present in our working, travel and leisure environments, bringing brand campaigns to life in public spaces with smart animation, full motion creative and internet connectivity.

The opportunity to transmit live messaging provides brands, creative agencies and media owners with a dynamic new dimension and the flexibility to engage with the consumer in real-time. With live campaigns comes relevance and the more relevant a message the more engaged the audience is likely to be.

It’s inevitable perhaps that brands and agencies have taken some time to grasp the possibilities that internet connected screens offer in terms of creative brand communications. The temptation arguably is to use out of home screens as an extension of the traditional poster’s pure broadcast power.

However, brands, and indeed media owners and agencies, are beginning to explore the incredible potential to combine digital out of home’s natural strengths - location, context and visual engagement - with live information and content tailored to accentuate a brand message.

There are several ways live data can be integrated into brand campaigns. A relatively straightforward approach is to combine existing brand relationships, say a sponsorship of a sports event with live up-dates of results or news bulletins.

Another approach is to use data analysis of live events or past ones to create informative packages of information brought to the consumer by a relevant brand.

For example, an analysis of train or flight arrivals can power relevant messages delivered to relevant locations where travellers are likely to find information about a late train or flight arrival. Take that a step further and analysis of ticket sales might lead to tailored information displayed at exits and entrances based on the audience profile of a particular train, bus or plane load of people.

Likewise, location specific digital networks with a detailed database of the audience that sees their screens can help brands amplify messages with information relevant to professions, tastes or simply the time of day and the weather.

Analysis of retail sales and stock levels might drive specific promotions by retailers through sites that could also drive footfall.

Once these techniques become more commonplace, another logical step could be the fusion of multiple, big data streams to create a picture of the behaviour or movement of groups from different locations.

Attention grabbing editorial is also an effective context through which to deliver commercial messages. It is a way in which brands can capture the attention of a consumer and create high-empathy levels with a brand. This is especially true when editorial is topical and timely, tailored and relevant for a particular audience.

As with any advertising that resonates with an audience, relevancy is key.

In many ways what this amounts to is a blurring of the lines between advertising, editorial and public service.

There’s a mountain of evidence which proves that people value posters in urban environments, but the integration of live data and content into brand messages allows posters and brands to better engage the consumer and proactively add value to people’s lives.

There's a growing number of advertisers who are already using digital screen networks to deliver time-sensitive information, with brands recognising the value in going a step further by using content provision and sponsorship to gain consumer attention and appreciation.

Furthermore, there is a real desire from advertisers and agencies to create campaigns to maximise the possibilities provided by ‘real-time’ platforms.

As Official Supplier of Information Technology to The All England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon, IBM recently ran live in-match score updates from Wimbledon on ECNlive digital screens. Wimbledon news and score updates, accompanied by visual images and commentary relating to specific matches in-play as well as facts and player performance and analysis generated by IBM, was used in the campaign.

Other examples of editorial out of home campaigns are Warner Bros streaming the premiere of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 on Transvision screen at London rail station last year, Hello magazine sponsoring live images of the Royal Wedding at the London A4 'Two Towers' site and TomTom sponsoring live and localised traffic information.

More recently a BP campaign used the photographs of Facebook members that were uploaded onto the BP Facebook page as part of a competition to win tickets to the London 2012 Olympic Games on digital poster sites across London.

All this means that traditional concepts of a great poster ad are likely to change dramatically in the coming years, as creatives continue to explore the exiting opportunities that internet connectivity brings, and the benefits of delivering audiences relevant content via screen media in different locations gains traction.

Yet again, digital technology is breaking down the boundaries between different disciplines and mediums, leaving it to brands, agencies and media owners to think laterally and take advantage of what is emerging as a tremendous opportunity to connect with people out of the home.

Stephen Gale, sales director, ECNlive