Global investment in out of home (OOH) is forecast to grow around three to five percent and will reach an all-time high of $30 billion in 2018. Magna Global, the IPG Media Brands intelligence resource, says this growth is driven largely by the expansion of digital out of home (DOOH).
DOOH as a sub category of OOH will grow by 15%, up from 11% growth in 2017. In 2018 DOOH is expected to reach $5 billion and account for roughly 17% of total OOH spend (Magna Global). Almost one in every five dollars invested in OOH is invested in digital OOH formats.
At the core of OOH’s growth is continuous technological development, the increased versatility of content and message delivery across multiple screens and platforms, the ability to integrate with social media, and continued studies into the relevance and effectiveness of DOOH as a medium.
Few would question that DOOH will also be the biggest area of growth across the South African OOH industry in 2018. It is expected that we will see a significant increase in the number of DOOH panels across South Africa as digital formats and deliverables become more creatively inviting, affordable and accessible.
The three major players in the local and African OOH market already have significant digital footprints, including digital roadside billboards, airport and transit digital offerings.
A number of other smaller independent companies are also making a serious mark on the digital OOH landscape.
The reality is that, as an OOH media owner, if DOOH is not part of your futureproofing vision, then you are going to fall behind the game; and if you are a marketer who is not using DOOH to better target your consumers with smarter content delivery and contextually relevant messaging, you are also missing a huge opportunity.
There are, however, quite a few challenges facing the DOOH industry particularly in terms of outlining best practice across DOOH platforms and environments.
A good place to begin addressing these challenges is to highlight some Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) guidelines on globally acceptable digital practice.
The IAB comprises more than 650 leading media and technology companies responsible for selling, delivering and optimising digital advertising and marketing campaigns. Together they account for 86% of all digital advertising in the US.
In 2016 The IAB in the US created a digital out of home task force, comprising of no less than 22 leading marketing and advertising companies to develop technical standards and best practice for DOOH advertising. These guidelines remain one of the leading resources on DOOH advertising best practice globally.
There are four of the key areas of focus for DOOH practitioners to help guide best practice, particularly here in Africa.
1. Research into the effectiveness of DOOH
At this stage, neither OHMSA or the OMC has delivered any meaningful measurement in terms of consumer engagement with DOOH platforms, and there is little evidence to suggest that we will see anything in the near future. Because DOOH only represents around five to 10% of total OOH spend in South Africa, and at a stretch five percent of the total OOH estate, the research from these traditional industry bodies remains focused on quantitative measurements of traffic past static roadside billboards which constitute around 54% of OOH advertising investment.
Unfortunately, this research also falls short of measuring critical points of difference in awareness, and engagement when comparing digital roadside advertising to static roadside advertising; further, it totally neglects to provide insights on the many other DOOH environments such as airports, malls, commuter digital solutions like taxi TV or airport TV.
As a direct result of this, there is currently no collective industry research initiative to measure the contribution of DOOH platforms specifically and individually. This is not necessarily a bad thing (as its unlikely that there would be consensus on methodology or funding anyway), as long as marketers are able to aggregate data and insights from the various independent sources to create a meta-picture of how consumers are actually consuming and responding to DOOH.
Fortunately, in the absence of local research we can still access channels like the IAB and OAAA (Out of Home Association of America) and other resources from Canada, Europe, Australia and East Asia. Using attribution modelling techniques”, we can take the learnings from these markets and apply them, on a like against like basis, to DOOH both in our local market as well as other African markets.
2. No standardisation/consistency in loop lengths
A key challenge remains; with all the varying digital offerings, could we collectively create a set formula for optimal utilisation of DOOH? Or is it up to each individual media owner to determine how the medium should best be used?
Unlike static roadside billboards, or street furniture, there is a plethora of possible DOOH solutions, and possible ways of marketing DOOH; from Day-Parting and SOV (Share of Voice) solutions, to advertiser exclusivity and now even buying impressions. But if there is no discussion around “format optimisation and best practice”, there is a real risk that the DOOH industry will cannibalise it’s own medium before it even gets a chance to really grow.
Here are a few examples reflecting some of the inconsistencies in the local DOOH market versus global markets:
The IAB Digital Out of Home Buyers Guide reports that with Roadside DOOH the most accepted loop length is eight advertisers; giving each advertiser a one eighth share of voice (SOV).
Interestingly, the average spot length / ad length on digital posters and digital billboards is only “eight seconds, whereas in South Africa, the most accepted digital advert length is 15” and in some cases 30” (because it’s easier to repurpose a TV ad) Using 15” as a standard DOOHC, that would make a loop length of eight adverts equal to two minutes. Meaning that your advert will play once every two minutes.
In internal retail and commuter environments like airports the most acceptable loop length is six advertisers, and the length of the advert anywhere between 8” – 15”. In South Africa, most DOOH companies are running ad loops of 10, 12 or even 15 advertisers.
So, as a marketer, if your DOOH supplier is running more than 8 adverts in a loop, you need to ask whether you are getting the best value for your money. Especially when dwell time is low
3. Full motion/video/motion graphics?
Flexible scheduling, dynamic content triggers and real-time data integration will become a must for every DOOH network.
However, the removal of video and full motion graphics would impact the DOOH industry massively, as part of the appeal of digital billboards is the fact that movement attracts consumer attention.
In markets like the UK, full-motion video has been completely banned by municipal councils who maintain that video on roadside digital platforms is dangerously distractive for drivers.
In South Africa and the rest of Africa digital practitioners need to protect their commercial properties by ensuring that bylaws are not amended to exclude the use of full motion as they have done in the UK and other markets.
One of the ways to do this is to work hand in hand with the council to outline what is acceptable motion on digital roadside screens and then to regulate that across all DOOH suppliers before it becomes an issue.
Secondly, DOOH companies need to work alongside their client and agencies partners to develop appropriate content specifically for the medium, rather than just using existing traditional linear TVCs.
Ultimately this will aid in improving the relevance of the advertising, the levels of engagement, and no doubt the success of the campaign.
4. Transparency and accountability
It is now more important than ever for media owners to provide advertisers with the transparency they are looking for.
Programmatic, initially praised as the easiest way to deliver effective advertising impressions to the right audience, has recently been associated with issues of non-transparency and, according to the 2016 K2 Intelligence Report, systemic and widespread business practice “that may not be in the advertiser’s best interest”.
Fortunately, the digital advertising industry is working together to rebuild the fundamentals for which it was originally designed.
Likewise with DOOH, it’s not enough to just deliver the advertising to the screens.
Accurate and reliable reporting, of both qualitative and quantitative metrics, will play an even more crucial role in the future success of DOOH.
There is certainly an opportunity to outline best practice for the various DOOH environments. This will assist in building credibility with clients and advertising agencies, as well as increase advertising spend as the dynamics of DOOH becomes easier understand, and ultimately to implement and book.
But the real challenge remains for DOOH companies in Africa to demonstrate that OOH really works in delivering ROI, and that the efficiency of DOOH is not measured purely on the fact that it delivers content more flexibly.
If you can see it! Then you can DOOH it!
Alasdair Muller is the group sales director for The Media Factory (PTY) Ltd which represents over 40 shopping malls across five countries in Africa.