The ROAD research currency has changed the South African OOH industry, something the Out of Home Measurement Council’s (OMC) general manager, Trish Guilford can’t stop talking about.
Getting more South African OOH players on board with the research is a top priority for the OMC, along with trying to ensure OOH gets a bigger slice of the advertising spend pie.
Guilford chatted to The Media Online to give her take on the local OOH industry at present, as well as to explain the power of the medium.
What will be your strategy for the OMC in your new role as general manager?
My strategy is to get new OOH members on board from the roadside billboard arena in order to get as many billboards plotted in ROAD, so that we have the best possible representation of billboards. In addition, there is a huge educational drive to change the way media agencies and clients approach OOH planning.
With ROAD, we can now offer actual reach and frequency for each billboard plotted and we can take OOH planning to a new level. Never before have we had a planning currency that is comparable with TV, radio, print and digital – and now we do! I will be focusing on changing the way media strategists approach OOH planning by adding the science behind site selection.
This will take time as not many media people like change, but in the long term the demand for showing the accountability of OOH will grow and people will be forced to adopt a new way of working. By no means am I saying that there is no space for OOH departments, they have a necessary role, however the strategists have to work closely with these departments upfront in order to plan OOH.
Long gone are the days when OOH should just get a budget allocation. The same amount of time that is spent on the other media types needs to be allocated to OOH. The good news is that the ROAD research makes OOH simpler!
What will the priorities be for the OMC for the rest of the year and the beginning of next year?
Our strategy is our priority – without more members and a better representation, and more people using the ROAD data, the OOH industry will move forward at a snail’s pace and continue to battle for ad revenue. Reliable, robust research these days is critical and we have possibly the most advanced research to offer the industry. We have to get people to adopt the research and use it to everybody’s benefit.
For the future, we have plans to include more jigs to the research and we are looking to include commuter nodes, transit media, mall media etc. Our long term vision is to be able to supply accurate research for all OOH platforms. These new jigs will be rolled out however only once we have sufficient traction in the static billboard area.
How does the OOH landscape in SA look at present?
The OOH landscape is forever changing. The good old days of considering billboards as the only OOH opportunity has long gone. OOH is anything that can be branded and used for advertising messages and hence there are a number of new media owners coming into the OOH landscape offering different platforms for consideration.
The difficulty comes in whether or not the opportunity is legitimate and realistically doable. And of course, digital OOH platforms are becoming more dynamic and interesting and therefore offers a host of unique opportunities to advertisers. It certainly is not a static and uninteresting category!
What challenges are the OOH industry and OOH companies in SA facing at present?
Getting their fair share of the advertising budget. We have research that proves that OOH deserves to demand a higher percentage of the overall client budget as it offers a unique opportunity for synergising with other media types. TV and digital channels (mobile, search and social) continue to increase in advertising SOV to the detriment of other media channels. These channels are not always the best options to use but they are becoming the default channels to all media plans.
With the new OOH research, it is not easy to dismiss why a combination of billboards shouldn’t be added to a campaign when we prove that the reach is higher than some of the TV programmes being scheduled for 30” ad exposures.
But research and results aside, OOH companies continue to battle to get face time with the correct people – both media agency and clients. It is vitally important for everybody to know what is happening across all media types whether you use them or not. No strategies are ever cast in stone and in this industry we know that people don’t stay in one position working on one client forever. The OOH departments are an integral part, however the OOH companies do need to see other decision makers.
What are the three biggest trends in OOH at the moment?
Our belief is that traditional OOH will hold its own and the greatest trends will be seen in the digital arena. Technology has had the greatest influence on the world of OOH:
- Advertisers and OOH companies will move more to dynamic real time messaging with the ability of being able to measure results as OOH naturally converges with mobile/search and social. This is already being done on digital billboards where messages are time channel specific to tie in with radio campaigns.
- Interactive and dynamic creative will be used more often to allow for touch, gestures, and face and gender detection as well as image captures.
- Consumers will engage more frequently with OOH structures and the lines between digital and physical interactions will become blurred as we offer consumers more opportunities to interact with brands.
How does OOH research look in SA at present?
The ROAD research is possibly the most advanced and dynamic research we have in South Africa. The methodology used to get the traffic information as well as the travel survey allows for unique information to be obtained. We now have a robust understanding of the number of people passing billboards as well as an understanding of who they are demographically, which allows for better campaign targeting.
The OMC founding members have invested an enormous amount of capital into this research and it has changed the OOH arena. Best international learning and practices have been taken into consideration and OOH is sitting in a far stronger and superior position than ever before.
In your opinion, what makes OOH such a powerful medium, particularly for advertising?
You can’t switch OOH off. No matter where you go and what you are doing, you will be exposed to OOH throughout your time away from home. From small space opportunities to building wraps and mega structures, there is always advertising messages around. The media consumption patterns of people has changed drastically and it is no longer possible to say that one can reach everybody with radio or TV.
Many people are using streaming options for both of these media types but they can’t get away from OOH messages. OOH also still remains one of the few media channels to allow for accurate geographic and demographic targeting. There is no need to be adopt a ‘spray and pray’ strategy with OOH which means that ROMI is a lot more effective. We also sometimes forget that the OOH is BIG! It guarantees awareness and it certainly helps in building Big Brand Feel – unfortunately sometimes the creative execution does not lend itself to OOH application and therefore impact can be lost. The best rule of thumb is keep the message simple – a maximum of 8 words on a billboard.
Last but certainly not least – the most powerful characteristic about OOH is the fantastic synergy that it offers to every campaign. It really is the one media type that can be used to extend any campaign against any target audience.
If anybody has questions or queries or would like to see what the ROAD entails and the results that can be obtained through it, they can contact Guilford on firstname.lastname@example.org and a meeting will be set up.
Michael Bratt is a multimedia journalist at Wag the Dog, publishers of The Media Online and The Media. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelBratt8.