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The Great Outdoors: Why OOH is set to be adworld’s strongest contender in 2017

Thomson Reuters Canary Wharf

No matter where you look, all the signs point towards Out-of-Home (OOH) advertising competing with the dominant players in the media landscape in 2017. According to the latest Advertising Association and Warc figures, ad spend in digital OOH has grown 30.5% in the last year alone, demonstrating mounting confidence from advertisers in how digital technology is transforming the effectiveness of the medium. We’ve come a long way but now, more than ever, is the time for OOH to invest heavily in its future and lead from the front.

The shifting perceptions of OOH as a more impactful and accountable medium are largely reflective of our investment in data and technology over recent years. Of course, the use of data in Out-of-Home advertising is by no means a new phenomenon. Even the most traditional formats, billboards and posters, have long called upon demographic information to ensure ads are strategically positioned in precise geographic locations and able to deliver localised messaging at crucial decision-making moments. That said, the increased connectivity of our world in recent years has brought with it increasing volumes of data to inform campaigns. We’ve come a long way in terms of our capabilities, but, in order to compete in today’s complex media ecosystem, the Out-of-Home industry must continue to innovate.

Out-of-Home advertising needs to find ways to collate and utilise the wealth of information available in the same way as its pure play digital media peers. This demands a complete digital transformation of the sector, not just in terms of its screen displays but also in terms of its ability to leverage data, from collection and analysis through to implementation and evaluation. Hello London, the new Out-of-Home media brand launched by Exterion Media and Transport for London last month, sets a benchmark. Placing insight and audiences at the heart of its integrated offering, Hello London marks the beginning of what will be an exciting future for the Outdoor advertising industry.

Outdoor advertising is no longer just about static posters or outdated planning modes. We are moving to a place where automated systems are creating more efficiency, offering flexibility and agility that will allow advertisers to create more contextual and relevant campaigns for consumers. What’s more, at a time of increasing advertising fatigue amongst consumers, we’ve injected something new and fresh into the market that rivals the likes of TV and beats online video in terms of engagement and visibility.

A recent study we conducted with Bournemouth University and Cog Research – The Engagement Zone - using skin conductance response and eye tracking tests on over a hundred commuters, found that individuals actively seek out advertising as they pass through the London Underground. The majority found them a welcome distraction. Engagement levels with advertising on the Tube were also found to match that of TV advertising at 16% and far surpass that of online video which sits at 9%.

Interestingly, 4 in 5 people who stated that they didn’t like social media ads or TV ads said they did, in fact, like ads on London Underground. Given that the latest IAB figures report that 1 in 5 UK adults now use adblocking software, OOH is certainly offering a consumer-friendly communications solution for advertisers. Rather than being an intrusive and unwelcome irritation, Outdoor advertising is a medium that genuinely adds value to the environment, and consumers clearly recognise this.

Out-of-Home may be the world’s oldest advertising medium but its capacity to innovate for the future should not be underestimated. Through a more sophisticated use of data, we’ve become increasingly audience-led, measurable and optimised, with more efficient planning and execution of campaigns delivering greater engagement and ultimately higher ROI. Though we may predate the digital age, OOH is well and truly shifting to the forefront of the digital media landscape. And with continued investment in digital and data technologies, we will become a fierce contender for digital budgets in 2017, setting a new precedence in the sector for relevance, impact and accountability.