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Out-of-home in 2023: fakes, 3D, sustainability and growth

Out-of-home in 2023: fakes, 3D, sustainability and growth
2023 in Review

Has out-of-home (OOH) firmly put the pandemic in the rearview mirror in 2023?

Denise Turner, Route Research CEO told The Media Leader this year in OOH has been characterised by an increase in confidence, collaboration, growth and creativity.

“Certainly the people I’m talking to are feeling like they can be confident, and the AA/WARC figures show that out-of-home even in traditional is still growing, whereas in other channels it’s just the digital that’s growing.”

The Media Leader asked out-of-home media owners, specialists and trade bodies what the most significant change in the sector was and the biggest surprise this year.

The rise and fall of fake out-of-home?

From brands like Maybelline on the London Underground, to The North Face on Big Ben and Gymbox on a bus roof, “faked” OOH activations posted online caused a lot of debate in the industry this year.

Three out of The Media Leader‘s top 10 most-read outdoor articles from the last 12 months were around the topic.

“Very quickly a lot of fake out-of-home was produced off the back of Maybelline,” noted Phil Hall, CEO of Ocean Outdoor UK. “To me there’s an irony there that one of the things that raised the profile of how effective OOH can be and how shareable it can be was something that wasn’t true OOH.”

It was mostly agreed upon that it was not “real” out-of-home but rather online activation, and Hall argued it would be better to “do it in real life,” though he admitted it started “a really interesting debate” about the advantages of different media.

“That’s why there’s such a furore around it that we’re a media that’s really trustworthy,” he said. “And so when people bend the truth using CGI, does that devalue our medium or does it just highlight that fact that that OOH stunts and experiential done really well and is immensely shareable and there’s a value in that?”

Have Gymbox and Maybelline’s fake ads broken the law?

3D, innovation and creativity

The scale and innovation in 3D OOH was also considered a highlight this year among OOH leaders.

Neil McKenney, COO at DOOH.com said: “The biggest surprise in OOH advertising this year for us has been the overwhelming success of 3D DOOH on a global scale. If we’re honest, we didn’t expect 3D DOOH to explode quite this much. The industry was cautiously optimistic about its potential, but the extent to which it has captured audience attention and transformed campaigns has been astonishing.”

Sarah Parkes, chief sales & marketing officer at specialist agency Talon, echoed this as she said the “eruption of anamorphic” this year is something she expects to see even more of in 2024.

“Media owners have invested in this technology at scale and brands can now activate 3D campaigns at scale across multiple locations worldwide (Maybelline activated in 280 locations!), and we’ve seen the impact in real life and going viral online,” she said. “Why would you bother faking it when the real thing is so impressive?”

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McKenney also called out the integration of data-driven technology and hyper-targeted advertising as being a significant change this year, with “unprecedented growth” in real-time data used to tailor ads based on location and time.

He added: “Interactive billboards, AR experiences, and QR code activations are becoming standard fare, enhancing consumer engagement and the overall impact of OOH campaigns.”

Global has launched 3D at scale on the London Underground and roadside estate for instance, leading Chris Forrester, director of commercial for outdoor at Global, to say it was “now easy and affordable” to execute big, innovative campaigns across the UK.

In TfL first, New York Bakery Co launches 3D outdoor campaign on Underground

Alight Media CEO Matt Dearden said that smart flexible dynamic creative in OOH was “the next frontier in data and digital” and the quality and scale of product OOH can deliver for clients compared to other mediums was what set it apart this year.

Another innovation was called out by Curtis Weir, Publicis Media OOH group director, who said OOH’s alignment with retail media was notable with retailers “increasingly making an investment” in expanding and redefining the channel.

Surpassing post-pandemic revenues

Tim Lumb, director of Outsmart, said Q3 2023 revenues surpassing pre-Covid Q3 2019 was the biggest surprise for the sector.

“These numbers are a confidence boost,” he said. “Covid is truly in the past now for both brands and media owners.”

OOH revenues surpass 2019 levels for first time

Dallas Wiles, co-CEO at JCDecaux UK agreed, adding: “Q3 is going to reflect 13% growth for out-of-home, which has come as a surprise for the sector and I think it will come as a surprise for outsiders looking into the sector.

“This is the first time as a sector we are trading above 2019 levels (5% against 2019) so hopefully we can start forgetting about 2019 as the benchmark of success and we can move forward.”

Wiles said digital out-of-home (DOOH) was the “big protagonist” of that growth, which was trading 28% above 2019 for Q3.

JCDecaux UK co-CEOs: OOH sector needs brave marketers

Richard Bon, UK managing director and Europe commercial lead predicted “a bumper Q4” for out-of-home and expected it to also finish ahead of 2019.

Three major reports make waves

Outsmart and PwC’s Supporting UK Society September report was mentioned by many as the most significant update for the industry. It showed outdoor media owners had invested over £1bn in the last 14 years towards public infrastructure, installing and maintaining bus shelters, lifesaving defibrillators, free telecoms services and funding public transport.

Forrester said: “The benefits to local communities, charities and the public purse is powerful and inclusive, and in many ways is unique to outdoor advertising. As a medium that’s so public (it’s literally in public spaces) that inclusivity is important and being able to support organisations that are doing important work in local communities is special.

“Whilst people who work in the industry have always known all this, PwC’s new research has surfaced it and brought it to the attention of the wider media industry. Happily, it’s now better understood by the market, by advertisers and agencies.”

Nearly half of UK OOH ad revenues ‘reinvested’ in public infrastructure

Nicole Lonsdale, chief client officer at Kinetic, highlighted the conversation around sustainability and OOH having changed the most in 2023, in particular with Outsmart and PwC’s report and an upcoming KPMG report in February 2024 showing the sector’s carbon emissions.

This is a follow-on from a 2022 French study, which revealed OOH represents just 0.028% of France’s energy consumption, by far the lowest amongst media channels.

The Media Leader understands the UK report will reveal OOH represents 0.067% of total power consumption in the UK and OOH advertising emissions compared to its audience are lower than all other media in terms of their advertising activities.

Meanwhile, Kantar’s Media Reactions report was mentioned as being impactful for the channel, given that OOH and DOOH made consumers’ top three attention-grabbing channels and top five preferred channels in the September study.

This did not quite match the marketers’ ranking, which Bon said showed consumers were much more interested in IRL (in real life) while marketers were in URL.

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Parkes explained: “The biggest surprise was that OOH is not taking more share of adspend – despite OOH’s many superpowers, we are a 3-4% medium. Kantar’s recent Media Reactions study is proof that we should be demanding much higher share.”

She said the study was “a key example” of how attention is coming to the forefront of conversations around media effectiveness, and shows a 90% correlation between channels that consumers claim capture their attention and those that they prefer.

‘The last broadcast channel’?

Hall and Bon echoed Parkes in saying they saw the biggest surprise for OOH was the sector not taking a bigger share of adspend.

Hall said: “Genuinely one of the surprises is that OOH hasn’t grown more than it has. I think the conditions for substantial growth in OOH are really strong at the moment. And we’re certainly talking to people to ask them to reconsider the place of OOH because some other mediums are struggling with audience and accountability.”

Bon highlighted that compared to traditional media, OOH’s reach is increasing and not fragmenting, with the three largest media owners reaching 90% of all of the UK.

He added: “For a long time we talked about out-of-home as the last broadcast channel. I’ve been saying that for five years but it felt that this year it has become a reality.”

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graham milne, Managing Partner, Spiritmedia Scotland, on 12 Dec 2023
“One of the things that really annoyed me about the Gymbox fake was that it wasn't even original. AMV did a real bus roof ad in London for The Economist in the late 80's.”

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