Out of home media is growing in terms of what it can do to market brands. Melina Meletakos reports.
Digital technology is driving where the out of home (OOH) media industry is heading, particularly in the retail space. This is according to Craig Page-Lee, the managing director of Posterscope South Africa, who says these innovations are ideal for crafting a brand’s story, building on that narrative and then using it to create consumer connections.
If OOH media players are unable to embrace these ever-evolving advancements, he adds, they risk becoming irrelevant.
“We all think that OOH media is street poles, billboards and good old building wraps, when actually, it is a whole lot more,” he says. “It’s about vending machines and interactive technologies. It’s about large-format, high-impact digital screens in key locations around the world. It’s about the big wrap also being a platform for brand consistency from one country to the next.”
These innovations have created an opportunity for brands to engage with consumers through different experiences, be it in a bricks-and-mortar store, online, or via smartphone and tablet devices. He cited an example of an integrated Trigger Isobar campaign to launch three new flavours of energy drink Red Bull. One phase of the campaign included interactive touch screens that were mounted onto can-shaped vending machines. Users could play an interactive game to win a sample of Red Bull’s new products. The tactile experience that allowed consumers to be rewarded for interacting with the brand had people queuing up to participate.
Similarly, a 2010 campaign to launch the MINI used an interactive approach to get consumers involved in the advertisement by asking them how many people they thought could fit into the car. Using video cameras inside the MINI, passersby had to pack as many people around the car as possible. The footage was then projected onto the inside of the MINI, which made it seem as if the estimated number of people were actually in the car. Participants could then share the video on social networks.
But despite all these opportunities, using new digital tools in retail environments comes with a fresh set of challenges for the OOH industry, Page-Lee explains.
Brands are becoming so aware of the power of digital that they are now “showcasing their own products through digital platforms in shop fronts so that they don’t need to spend money in the malls”, he says. Hollister clothing brand, the surf division of American retailer Abercombie & Fitch, set up webcams that captured live footage from Huntington Beach in California. This was then projected on to digital screens in its many stores around the world, a move that eliminated the need for the brand to buy media in mall spaces.
Page-Lee says he doesn’t think enough emphasis is placed on a brand’s owned media. Owned platforms are the communication channels that a brand has created and can therefore control. This could be a company’s website, Facebook page or YouTube channel, for example. “Brands like Edgars, Pick n Pay or Woolworths have fantastic owned properties but media agencies are buying media that they are pushing on to other platforms. I think the opportunity to leverage off the owned, physical bricks-and-mortar store – stuff like activations, ambience, reconfiguring the retail stores based on social interactions – can be so dynamic,” says Page-Lee.
And then there is the debate around ‘showrooming’, a phenomenon that developed as online shopping became more popular and smartphones more widely used. It refers to the practice of shoppers looking at merchandise in a traditional bricks-and-mortar store and then purchasing it online, most often at a lower price. But, says Page-Lee, ‘reverse showrooming’ has been identified as a practice that is countering the effect of losing potential customers to a virtual sales floor. Consumers are increasingly going online to research products, but then head to a bricks-and-mortar store to complete their purchase.
“They are bringing you back into the space so they are not losing you as a customer because they use that opportunity to put you into another product category or another opportunity. There are a number of Americans that have bought into the notion that you don’t have purchases delivered at home but rather collected in-store,” he says.
This practice does not get rid of emotional buying, adds Page-Lee, because brand temples are being built. “In New York, you may have 200 retail chains of a particular brand closing down. But suddenly, you have the biggest brand store that the same brand has ever opened on the main street because people want to come in and have an emotional, tangible connection. That kind of heightened emotional sense only happens in the premium-brand temple,” he says.
Ultimately, if the OOH industry takes advantage of what digital has to offer, it will be able to gain a higher percentage of advertising spend and share of voice of the total media, says Page-Lee.
In South Africa, OOH has been measured at about 4.7% of the total advertising spend. The reason this number has been so low, he says, is because non-traditional OOH media owners – like those who work in transit or mall media – do not report their figures to AdEx. “When you look at the inclusion of those numbers you see the jump for the industry to move up to 11.8%,” he says. “Data is an absolute imperative in understanding the efficacy of this medium.”
IMAGE: Hollister Clothing in the US uses webcams at Huntington Beach in Californina to beam images to its stores worldwide.
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