There’s absolutely no doubt that digital out of home screens are a game changer in the sector. Companies wanting to play effectively in the outdoor space are investing heavily in the technology, and anticipating an upswing in ad spend as companies adapt media plans to take into account the tactical reach and power of the medium.
Continental Outdoor Media recently announced it had bought and installed installed seven state-of-the-art digital roadside billboards that connect to a network called ‘Ignite’. The Daktronics screens promise “eye-popping” image quality and use the latest global digital technology. At this point, they’re operational in the high-end area of Sandton in Johannesburg.
Executive chairman of Continental, Barry Sayer, says the out of home industry “effectively operates in two worlds”. Sandton, of course, is an example of the “highly sophisticated infrastructure” Sayer mentions, as are parts of Angola. But the company also works in the “infrastructure poor, third world environments of many of Africa’s rural environments”.
“Consequently development capital is spent on the one hand on state-of-the-art digital our of home media networks in cities whilst on the other hand on the development of simplistic, static out of home signs that communicate in relatively unsophisticated, poorer and remote areas where electricity supply is limited and consequently the footprint of other major broadcast media is almost non-existent,” Sayer says.
The company’s marketing manager, Lyn Jones, believes the outdoor medium coupled with new media is “ideally placed to encourage interactivity and transactions with consumers”.
She says more people than ever are spending time out of home with the young and affluent searching for information in the out of home environment using smart phone technology. “As an industry there is chance for a deeper level of engagement with people. This is because things like QR codes, Bluetooth and near field communication allow consumers to interact with a brand. Furthermore, the power of interaction/communication has shifted more from the media to the consumer, through technology and interactive media. Interaction or participation also creates a consumer experience, which they will talk about,” she says.
Jones says there is a “huge demand” for digital networks that “offer marketers creative flexibility enabling them to target audiences with different messages at different times of the day, on weekdays and weekends, according to the time of year and they offer location-based messaging”.
She gives as examples Continental Outdoors’ digital networks in pubs/restaurants, airports, the Gautrain, malls, medical suites and roadside that “allow for relevant messaging when the consumer is in a relevant mindset and likely to act upon it”.
At this point, ad spend is still a relatively small proportion of OOH ad spend in South Africa, and Africa. But, says Jones, “we expect a surge in growth as digital OOH is embraced by marketers. This is for its immediacy, relevance and flexibility. The ad spend on traditional OOH platforms, however, should not be compromised, as it is the mechanisms and copy on creative messages whether off a digital screen or static platform that encourage interactivity”.
While the technology hasn’t exactly attracted new clients, Jones says the difference comes in the way it encourages deeper interaction and immersion with brands, “the mandate for all advertising”. The company’s first client was Samsung with the launch of their new Galaxy Note 3 device. Celia Collins, deputy MD of Starcom Mediavest, said forward thinking companies that move with the digital age are making it easier for clients such as Samsung to reach their consumers in a more engaging and interactive way. “The quality of Continental Outdoors’ screens during the day, as well as evening, ensure that we make an impact throughout the day and night to drive innovation through the launch of the new Galaxy Note 3 device,” she said.
DOOH is a tactical medium, says Jones. Proof-of-play webcams have been installed on each screen to provide advertisers real-time reassurance that their ad is being flighted. One of its major advantages is that return on investment can be measured from OOH platforms on to social and other digital/online environments allowing marketers to track their conversations with consumers, and ultimate sales conversions. “We rely on empirical secondary research (e.g. AMPS and TGI) to track awareness of digital advertising, supplemented with road traffic counts and other available statistics. As the DOOH market matures in South Africa more and more primary and secondary research studies will be undertaken to gauge the ROI of these platforms. We envisage that DOOH will soon be measured and planned in the same way as TV and radio by day-part, using cost per point metrics,” she says.