OOH’s 2024 resolution: think beyond the billboard

OOH’s 2024 resolution: think beyond the billboard
Maybelline’s fake ad in which eyelashes on a tube train appeared to be painted with a giant mascara brush

Fake advertising has a limited shelf life. Be bold with your OOH this winter.

To really attract interest in out-of-home (OOH), it’s time for brands to be brave and mix things up. 

We’re all familiar with traditional billboards, posters and the like. While these tried and trusted forms of advertising can be effective (particularly with the right creative), there is also a risk that consumer familiarity makes them easier to ignore.

This is particularly true when competing with smartphones for attention.

Recently, for example, brands have been turning their attention to ‘fake’ OOH advertising.

This is where conceptual OOH campaigns or experiences that never existed in reality are mocked up with CGI and shared on social media with the aim of going viral.

Think Maybelline’s eyelashes on a tube train, or Big Ben wearing a North Face puffer jacket courtesy of JD Sports.

But while this novel approach has seen results for early adopters, it has a limited shelf life.

Interest is likely to decline as more brands jump on the bandwagon. So with traditional OOH alone looking slightly homogenous and CGI fakery likely to jump the shark, brands will need to explore new avenues to provide consumers with novel and exciting experiences.

Capitalise on OOH’s credibility

A key reason why OOH advertising is very much worth the investment for brands is because of the prestige it bestows upon them in consumers’ minds.

The widespread availability of digital advertising means it’s much more egalitarian. Almost anyone can launch an ad campaign on Facebook or Google these days, and consumers know this. With OOH on the other hand, there is a perceived barrier to entry in terms of logistics and cost.

When a consumer sees a brand name or logo outdoors, it’s likely to boost their overall perception. They assume it belongs to a relatively large, established and reputable organisation. The issue is, that currently, consumers are not paying these brand names enough attention.

To be truly effective, OOH needs attention-grabbing and contextually relevant creative. It should also be trackable in terms of performance, with the ability to retarget audiences to convert on digital platforms following the initial OOH awareness play.

It’s not always been straightforward to set up measureable, integrated OOH campaigns in the past. But newer entrants to the OOH digital space are offering this as standard, bringing new levels of understanding and control to campaigns.

Think beyond the billboard

Impactfulness of impressions is paramount for OOH advertising. It’s better to hold the attention of a thousand people for a few seconds than it is for several thousand to glance at your billboard once without really acknowledging it.

Brands that have grabbed the attention of the public are those who are thinking beyond the billboard — even literally in some cases — utilising technologies to make eye-catching creative. Take Meta and its Piccadilly Circus 3D billboard takeover for Meta Quest 2, its VR headset. It involves diving NFL players, flying out of the screen, reaching astronauts and festive rollercoasters.

That’s going to stick more in the memory than your classic, stationary image or 2D video.

Memorable activations boost salience, making your brand more likely to come to mind when consumers are making a purchasing decision. And a particularly effective way to make your ads more memorable is to make them dynamic and contextually relevant to their surroundings. A great example of this is the latest creative from Oatly in France, which literally interacts with its environment.

Another example is a bit of a classic — British Airways used a digital billboard to show a child pointing at real aeroplanes in the sky above. The board also displayed real flight information including the flight number and destination — all through the lens of childhood excitement, curiosity and wonder to evoke emotion. And that was 10 years ago!

And yet there is a sense that OOH hasn’t quite moved on.

From the air to the road, mobile vehicles with mounted digital screens could be used to similar effect.

Through the use of geofencing and a centralised data platform, fleets of branded vehicles can be programmed to display specific creative when in a certain proximity, adding another dimension to brands’ activations. For example, Adidas could commission vehicles to display its advertising whenever the vehicles approached its stores to encourage potential customers in the area to pay a visit.

With the right data available, additional factors including the weather, season and time of day can also be used to serve relevant creative — such as a supermarket showcasing its hot chocolate products on a cold winter’s day. And speaking of winter, digital screens can boost visibility during the darker months, potentially standing out more than printed posters or bus ads when there’s less natural light to rely on.

More sustainable OOH approaches 

From a sustainability perspective, current digital display boards aren’t an optimal choice. A digital ad hoarding on a bus stop consumes approximately four times as much electricity as the average UK household. So it’s difficult for them to be sustainable or cost effective — particularly during the current energy crisis.

Using vehicle-mounted smart screens can also offer a compelling solution here – as long as the vehicles are electric. Electricity to power screens can be generated through the braking of the vehicles, bringing the cost of electricity close to zero. Not only does this reduce the cost of advertising for brands, it also means that digital ads can be served in a more sustainable way.

OOH remains a category with the potential to be one of the top performing advertising investments for brands.

A blend of situational context and effective data insights offer limitless opportunity for creative innovation and effective awareness generation. For the brands that are willing to explore cutting edge strategies with their OOH, results can be achieved on a far larger scale than Big Ben’s fake puffer jacket.

So a call to all brands. As we head into 2024, it’s time to be brave. Further enhance your OOH creativity by utilising new technologies and adding new complementary layers (such as digital toppers) to your activations.

You might just get people looking up from their mobile phones…

Artjom Jekimstev is founder and CEO at Drovo

Adwanted UK is the trusted delivery partner for three essential services which deliver accountability, standardisation, and audience data for the out-of-home industry. Playout is Outsmart’s new system to centralise and standardise playout reporting data across all outdoor media owners in the UK. SPACE is the industry’s comprehensive inventory database delivered through a collaboration between IPAO and Outsmart. The RouteAPI is a SaaS solution which delivers the ooh industry’s audience data quickly and simply into clients’ systems. Contact us for more information on SPACE, J-ET, Audiotrack or our data engines.

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