Why 2017 will be transformational for outdoor
A view from Stuart Taylor

Why 2017 will be transformational for outdoor

Advancing technology and better use of data are transforming digital screens that look good into personalised environments that directly engage and prompt consumers.

2016 was arguably the outdoor advertising industry’s most newsworthy year to date. 

Exterion Media retained the seminal £1.1bn Transport for London ad sales contract, while almost every other contractor invested unprecedented amounts in digital screens of all shapes and sizes, not least Piccadilly Lights. The site is being transformed into one of the world’s largest screens, which will rejuvenate the iconic landmark. 

We also saw the start of a street-furniture arms race. Clear Channel threw down the gauntlet at the start of the year, acquiring the Arqiva phone boxes to transform them into slick six-sheet kiosks.  

"2017 will see a greater acceleration of OOH prompting direct action and becoming more accountable in the process"

Primesight struck a deal with BT and Alphabet-backed Intersection to bring Link-NYC kiosks to the UK, offering free calls, ultra-fast free Wi-Fi and state-of-the-art digital ad screens. These elegant, sophisticated kiosks will visually transform the urban environment while offering public utility and new advertiser opportunities. 

Meanwhile, JCDecaux began its installation of the London Digital Network, with hundreds of 84-inch bus-shelter screens. Through these initiatives, we’ve seen London, and to a lesser extent the UK, grow to become the epicentre of world-class digital out-of-home.

The OOH industry is thriving and, of course, digital is spearheading the growth.

Encouragingly, the market doesn’t look like it’s slowing any time soon. DOOH’s share of total OOH spend is likely to hit 40% in 2017, while still only representing 15% of all inventory. This level of growth will continue for the next four years, giving DOOH the biggest growth po-tential of any media channel, according to the Advertising Association and Warc.

With digital proliferation a given, what else can we expect from OOH in 2017?

Context enabling content

We will plan and buy more contextually to a targeted broadcast audience. Continued digital investment is allowing advertisers and planners to work in more innovative ways around how to engage consumers. 

As the cost of content creation comes down, we will start to see more campaigns take advantage of OOH’s contextual capabilities with richer and more relevant messaging. And advertisers will start to see the benefits as context delivers value, as revealed by Clear Channel research showing that contextual OOH messaging increases visual attention by 20%. 

We are starting to see just how effective dynamic DOOH can be.

Jaguar F-Pace launched with the UK’s first traffic data DOOH campaign, which proved the importance of data-enabled DOOH and contextually relevant messaging. Jaguar used TomTom, harnessing real-time traffic data to serve appropriate messaging – different copy was served depending on the speed of traffic. 

We also bore witness to the power of dynamic DOOH as News UK launched a Euro 2016 campaign for The Sun that saw more than 400 unique creative executions delivered to 770 screens across the UK.

Expect to see more examples of data delivering contextual relevance in 2017.

The active journey

Many clients and planners still consider OOH a passive medium. While it still builds scale and reach like no other, it’s now so much more than that and is pivoting from a passive to an active medium. 

Today’s audiences engage with a diverse array of media and technologies while on the go – shopping, sharing, socialising, documenting. As such, the role of OOH has been redefined. It’s now the backbone of effective communications solutions for audiences on the move and engages to prompt and prime other activity such as mobile search and direct purchase. 

The increased sophistication of OOH environments helps too. Primesight’s airport sales consolidation offers a huge opportunity for advertisers and reflects the growing importance of the active journey. 

Airports have become essential leisure and shopping destinations in an environment where consumers have the time and inclination to buy. Expect much more to come from these spaces as the digitisation and connectivity upgrades continue apace.

Thanks to a happy combination of increased connectivity, contextual messaging and changing consumer behaviour, 2017 will see a greater acceleration of OOH prompting direct action and becoming more accountable in the process.

OOH as a broadcast medium

In the debate of precision versus mass marketing, OOH continues to deliver broadcast with the ability to target. OOH’s role as a broadcast medium that makes brands look enormous and trusted is expanding. 

Digital opportunities prime other media and encourage customer engagement and interaction. There is increased excitement around OOH because the vast range of environments and contexts, once viewed as something of a challenge for planners, is fulfilling multiple roles.

In a period of digital disruption and fragmentation, brands need mass appeal and to build fame more than ever – they can ach-ieve this through the scale OOH offers. In turn, big impact drives engagement. The challenge now is to get the context right.

Moving closer to a programmatic future

Let’s admit it, OOH has been relatively slow to deliver automation and we’re still streets away from true programmatic trading. But change is coming.

For the first time, all of the major vendors are making real progress to a more automated future. This will transform speed and opportunity for advertisers through the reduction of transactional friction, which in turn allows us to apply data more effectively in the planning process. Live availability will allow more real-time data-driven decisions, improving the contextual relevance for client communication. 

2017 will bring rapid progress on all the themes discussed. The technology is almost there, new geographical data sets are being applied and there is a real appetite to add value through a more contextual approach. The planets do seem to be aligning, finally, for a transformational year.

Stuart Taylor is the chief executive, UK and western Europe, of Kinetic