When you think about it, the medium that has evolved and transformed itself most in the past couple of decades is out of home, or outdoor, or whatever you want to call it! Sure, digital media has proliferated and brought huge innovation to the world of communication. And as a result many of the existing players have struggled to adapt, maintain saliency and most of all, keep their ad-revenues in a healthy state of affairs.
All media owners want to harness the power of digital, to find ways of enhancing their offering, and integrating technology into their medium. Some have struggled no matter what strides they have taken. Print is such an example. World circulations went from erosion to avalanche. The predictable result was that ad-revenues plummeted. But others have embraced and leveraged technology to morph their product into a new, more powerful, edgy option. That is OOH today.
It’s transformed from the plain billboard, with limited size options to the unlimited alternatives offered today. Pack-shot, pay-off and six word headlines were seen as optimal just a few years ago. Today, think live video, incredible clarity, amazing flexibility, with the only limitation being your imagination. Seriously, if you can think it, someone will build it!
So the OOH industry is in a really good place. The communications world is their oyster. But I have two concerns.
Firstly, just how many boards, faces, sites and messages does it take to blind the consumer? Who will finally stand up and say it’s enough of “Here’s a space, let’s exploit it!”? I honestly believe that we’re being buried by OOH sites. It’s killing ad-noting, I’m positive of that. On the other hand, as long as clients continue to demand, it would be a piss poor business decision to refuse to fill an order! So it’s really a case of a rock and a hard place.
My second concern stems from my first. So, because there are so many opportunities, prime real estate is what everyone wants. You have to give your product the best chance especially when a drive to the airport can expose someone to hundreds of ‘look at me’ messages. The result? A not very special, 4.5m x 18m board in a great spot which can easily cost a client R500 000 a year. And remember that, at the same time, it may be site number 232 out of 347 of my journey. Scary.
However, to be fair, clutter and cost are industry wide phenomena. Plus we all know there’s a solution. It’s the reason we’re in this business, and the solution is creative. Doing it better. Engaging and rewarding the consumer for their 10 or 20 seconds of attention. When you look at the OOH category specifically every year there are some stunning examples of creative work. (Pity, the other 99% is often so ho-hum).
I can’t really say I have a favourite TV, print or radio campaign of all time. But I do have a bestie when it comes to OOH. And funnily enough it’s low-tech. No video, no fancy lasers, just fabulous insight that delivers lightening-quick communication. It’s for a fast-food chicken outlet in the US with marvellous juxtaposition at its core. These are just two examples of an enjoyable campaign that understandably lasted for longer than a decade.
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