The OOH media in South Africa and the world at large is incredibly broad and filled with complexities. While it represents a multitude of communication touch-points of various sizes, formats and opportunities for consumers to engage with brands, the perception still exists that it’s tainted or has a dubious reputation.
Often referred to as an industry managed by “cowboys” in which there is little regard for the natural environment, the biggest challenge still remains around the low levels of measurability and lack of effective ROI metrics for clients’ investments.
A major concern for the OOH industry is that there’s hardly any reporting (only about five media owners report their figures to Adex) on the actual size and financial value of the industry. This is further complicated by the fact that digital is not separated in the numbers reported by the few media owners that do actually report. The challenge is that the industry will never be able to justify higher allocation of media budgets until this is rectified.
The medium does however, represent enormous opportunities for brands to connect with consumers as it encompasses almost anything that is not considered ATL media (TV, print or radio).
When considering the impact of technology on people’s lives, the ubiquitous nature of the mobile handset and the ability to collect and interpret data on consumer behaviour and therefore shape brand experience journeys, the true benefit and value of this always-on medium in the broader media eco-system becomes self evident.
Interconnectedness of media channels
Convergence is at play in the current OOH landscape and digital OOH (DOOH) is surely the potential big winner. As the points of engagement and transaction meet, the days of a linear relationship between consumers and the media channels that they consume are long gone. As such, consumers are continuously being influenced by the complex interdependencies of bought, owned, earned and now shared media channels.
The understanding that everything interconnects with everything else demands that the world of OOH media approaches brands from a different point, so enabling us to develop communications solutions that are built around the fluidity between time, place and platform.
Most people still position the OOH media industry as a series of posters, billboards, a few screens and some experiential. This narrow understanding of the traditional elements is important but outdated.
When looking at the industry in the broadest way possible and with a genuine understanding of the multitude of OOH media infrastructure that consumers are exposed to in different places and locations, we can see how sophisticated the OOH industry actually is.
It includes all kinds of bespoke placements, exhibition spaces, client-owned inventory, BTL retail communications and all the physical technology that consumers use when they’re out and about (a mobile handset, tablet or laptop can be just as OOH as a traditional poster.
Add in services such as search, public utility (free wifi), experiential concepts and new product launches, platforms (like Facebook and Twitter) and content (like YouTube) all streamed across DOOH networks, commerce (like downloadable e-vouchers) and games (whether on mobile or DOOH networks or both together) and the data generated by these endless interactions.
Enter the new OOH media eco-system.
So, the view of the industry now is extremely different. It is one that is very much a bought, owned and earned OOH ecosystem of media, technology, content and experience, with lots of interconnected and interdependent parts. The traditional elements also look so much more important when seen in the context of all the other ecosystem ingredients.
One thing that’s important to note about this new OOH media eco-system is the fact that the digital revolution has put media at the centre of consumer lifestyles. When considering that it overlaps with the other major global ecosystems such as Google (video – YouTube, search, mobile display, Gmail, Google+) Facebook (website, mobile app/site, f-commerce), Apple (i-Phone, iPad, i-Tunes, i-Ads) and Amazon (app, website, affiliate), the key point is that the new OOH media eco-system it is not dominated by any of these large multi-disciplinary multi-national entities. It works in conjunction with and through them.
The shift in advertising from traditional to digital (driven by convergence) has resulted in a new language and terms like programmatic, real-time bidding (RTB), demand-side platforms (DSPs) and trading desks are being associated with complex and ever changing OOH industry.
So with all of this jargon and new thinking in place, the question remains, “Is there relevance for programmatic and real-time bidding within the world of OOH?” I strongly believe so, but obviously, this will pertain primarily to DOOH networks at the outset.
Examining programmatic advertising platforms in detail, we begin to understand that real-time and third party data is used to identify the best audience for campaigns. Consumers can be identified by multiple data points including demographics, geography, interests, behaviours, day-part activities, weather and the type of device they use.
With the right technology (software) and effective data analytics capabilities in place, advertisers will be able to serve the right message, in the right format to consumers in real time. This is where DOOH really comes to the fore.
What this means for the OOH industry is greater levels of collaboration (working closely with media owners and digital media strategists and planners), clarity (of the extent and value of all digital networks in SA – both from a content delivery platform or highly interactive advertising delivery platform) – and education (how to access such trading platforms, how to buy at peak times – when the correctly targeted audience is in “message receptive” mode). This is what is required by all stakeholders in this incredibly exciting and evolving part of the industry.
Programmatic is very quickly becoming the driver and connector across the entire digital advertising world, not just on mobile, but across all DOOH touch-points and deep into the retail environment.
The power of mobile and DOOH
OOH advertising and mobile advertising offer the best of all media pairings for combining reach with consumer activation. With this in mind, the opportunities for the immediate future are that the inclusion of programmatic across not just mobile, but the entire DOOH spectrum, will support the wish for advertisers wanting to craft seamless, unique and personalised conversations – from one screen to another – for each consumer.
When this is achieved, the upside for advertisers is convergent and integrated platforms that will surely increase the number of brand engagement points for consumers, leading to higher purchase volumes and therefore increased ROI.
In closing, imagine an OOH industry where the real value of all combined networks is understood and where the value of DOOH networks is accurately measured and reported. Envision an OOH industry which is able to report the percentage of content space vs. the percentage of advertising space across digital networks, that could define slots and spots for advertisers and that was able to justify eye-balls, CPP, reach and frequency?
This is surely the moment when the world of DOOH can compete fairly and justifiably for a shift of TV and digital budgets to this new broadcast platform.
This story was first published in the October 2015 issue of The Media magazine.