When Lewis Hamilton won the Formula One World Championship after the Brazil Grand Prix, the news was announced within 10 minutes on JCDecaux screens across the United Kingdom. Breaking the news instantly, they were second only to Twitter.
As static ad displays are being converted to digital, new technology has given outdoor advertising the immediacy it lacked before.
Advertising messages can now be more targeted as they are adapted according to topical issues. As there is no longer a need for print material, delivery is faster and messages can be changed instantly.
“Our digital networks are managed from our head office, which alleviates any geographical challenges with regards to delivery,” says Lyn Jones, marketing manager at Continental Outdoor. “This also allows us to update messages across Africa from one controlled hub.”
Continental Outdoor has installed eight digital roadside billboards in Sandton. These screens offer high quality images, ensuring content creators have the ability to digitally duplicate advertising copy effortlessly. Additionally, proof-of-play cameras have been installed on each screen, giving advertisers real-time assurance that their ad is being flighted.
This kind of advertising doesn’t come cheap. But, says Primedia Outdoor Group creative head Mark Davis, “you’re getting a lot more bang for your buck” as the ability to customise digital billboards offers a great deal more flexibility than their static counterparts.
At the end of April, Primedia Outdoor launched its second 4.5m x 18m LED screen on the M1 North between Grayston Drive and Marlboro Drive. The space is occupied exclusively by Coca-Cola.
While technology has made this kind of advertising more accessible and viable for clients, it has also allowed outdoor advertising to evolve into something more than just a stand-alone medium. It can now position itself as a gateway to a brand’s digital and mobile platforms. At the simplest level, this can be done by including a QR code, hashtag or URL at the bottom of a billboard.
Pepsi Max UK, for example, used Twitter innovatively to ask users to submit videos for a chance to be featured on a digital Max billboard in the brand’s #LiveForNow campaign.
Similarly, deodorant brand Axe ran a campaign called #KissForPeace, which asked Twitter users to submit their photos of a kiss for a chance to have it featured on a billboard in New York’s Times Square.
“Outdoor is definitely not designed to compete with social media,” says Davis. “If anything, it complements it as billboards can be used to direct people to social platforms.”
Jones believes all out of home platforms, whether static or digital, provide the perfect springboard for marketers to start their brand conversations with consumers.
“Key to this is the understanding that once a message is driven onto a social or mobile platform, the control of the conversation is in the marketer’s hands,” she says.
While the traffic to social media platforms and websites driven from an out of home platform can be easily monitored and tracked, Jones says digital campaigns are measured in very much the same way as static billboards.
“The sale of the product being advertised is the key metric,” says Jones.
Continental Outdoor has pioneered the return on media investment (ROMI) with their product, ROMItrack, an analysis initiated by the company in collaboration with Nielsen. It evaluates the ROMI on an out of home campaign and compares test sales against a statistically matched control group.
According to Davis, outdoor has never been a retail platform.
“Measurement is hard to gauge with outdoor as it is very difficult to give a definitive answer. It is not a platform that is designed to be an indisputable punter of sales,” he says.
What is certain is that more time spent out of home combined with technological advances means that there is an opportunity to use old dead time spaces in new, innovative ways.
Jones says Continental Outdoor’s main focus in recent years, and going forward, has been becoming more flexible and targeted with their digital offerings for marketers.
“We aim to offer relevant and niche messages to consumers at the appropriate time and place,” she says. “As the price of technology reduces, so digital out of home products will proliferate.”
This story was first published in the July 2014 issue of The Media magazine.
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