Are we two nations now?
A view from Sue Unerman

Are we two nations now?

"I want to bring our country together, our United Kingdom together... to reclaim a mantle that we should never have lost: the mantle of one nation, one United Kingdom."

So David Cameron said on the day of the elections results.

Well, in one way, we are definitely two nations.

If you flick through Media Week’s triumphant 30th anniversary issue, in the back section there is a series of features from media agencies and media owners. Among the latter group, digital out-of-home dominates, with highly optimistic outlooks described by Clear Channel’s Chris Pelekanou, Exterion Media’s Shaun Gregory, Outdoor Plus’ Jonathan Lewis and Talon’s Eric Newnham.

According to these champions of digital out-of-home, the landscape will be awash with Minority Report-style personalisation of messages. For broader campaigns, the "right time, right message, right segment" accuracy of communications should improve out-of-home effectiveness and accountability in spades. Shaun Gregory writes: "The rise of digital out-of-home has been one of the most explosive industry game-changers to date."

If you live in a city, that is.

For the two nations that definitely exist, there are those who have exposure to digital out-of-home and those who do not. It is very different outside the urban sprawl. Once again, your experience as a media practitioner in London is irrelevant to the experience of significant parts of the UK.

A huge amount of investment is due before the full potential of digital out-of-home that effectively drives a national campaign for a household brand is truly realised. In addition, audience data will need to be more immediate and more accurate. The best campaigns will be served dynamically based on streams of data available with specific information from mobile networks. The effectiveness of the outcomes of these campaigns will require equally accurate and transparent data.

At the close of last year, I was one of the judges for the Campaign CityLive Challenge, where two creative teams each created an ad campaign that made the most of the exciting new technology embedded in multipoint touchscreens. It was really interesting but, for me, incredibly hard to judge – not just because the two ideas were so different. It's because, as a media planner, I really wanted to understand the metrics in order to have an informed opinion about which campaign should win. For one reason or another (outcomes unclear, details not comparable, sample sizes small), this proved very difficult.

To truly fulfil the potential that we can all imagine, there is a huge amount of work that the outdoor industry needs to undertake. Can Britain’s digital out-of-home bring our nation back together? How long will the investment in national digital outdoor take? Will the data about audience outcomes become available in real time for planners and data analysts so that we can truly have a currency comparable with other media? And, if so, when?

Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom