Out of home media buyers bare all

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 13 July 2016
Is this Australia's best ready-made billboard?

In this four-part series, AdNews explores the booming outdoor sector. See Part One: Signs of the times - the brave new world of outdoor; Part Three: Media owners nominate the seven best outdoor campaigns and Part Four: Monetising out of home engagement - what's next?

AdNews picked the brains of two out of home (OOH) experts, MEC’s national head of investment and activations, Claire Butterworth, and Posterscope Australia managing director, Joe Copley, to find out their thoughts on static vs digital and the next big thing in outdoor.

Are media agencies strategically placing outdoor ads near advertisers to appear like the ads are more present?

Claire Butterworth: I don’t think this claim is unfounded. I’m sure that agencies, when they are planning and buying outdoor look at reach and frequency across a broad geographic target. There are strategic locations that clients request or that sometimes slightly deviate from the plan.

But if you’ve got two options and two shopping centres doing exactly the same thing, delivering the same results, you pick the one where the CEO or CMO shops. But agencies wouldn’t deviate from the objectives to compromise a campaign. We certainly wouldn’t be doing a street furniture campaign and going let’s do a really large one outside the CEO’s house.

Joe Copley: Generally speaking, clients who fit the description of their brand’s intended audience should see a lot of their own ads or content. Those who don't ‘ fit ’ should see less. This applies to all media types, including OOH – but with OOH, ‘location’ is a more significant and controllable variable than with other media.

Most people are familiar with the OOH sites they see on a regular basis; have a think about the ones you see every day. This sometimes results in a specific request to include those ‘favourite’ sites in a campaign, which we would accommodate, if it’s in line with the brief. I’ve never seen a brief or a recommendation to target a client at the expense of reaching their intended audience. Our clients are smar ter than that.

What are the main billboards around Australia?

CB: Each city has their own landmark sites. In Sydney, the Glebe silos and the Taylor Square sites have a lot of interest. There are also some big ones at the airport. In Brisbane you’ve got the ones near the Story Bridge. In Melbourne, Young and Jackson is the most iconic. There’s a lot of new ones that have popped up recently with the Southbank redevelopment, a couple on Punt Road and the near the airport. There’s also Bourke St Mall.

JC: It depends, there are some fantastic sites (new and old) around the airports, which are attracting more prestigious clients aiming to influence that valuable and growing audience. Also, key city locations such as Federation Square in Melbourne now have new and upgraded large format digital signs, as do many of the major roads in and around our capital cities.

How much are advertisers spending on some of the most sought after sites?

CB: I probably couldn’t comment because you’ve got ratecards and then client discounts over and above that. How much people are willing to pay for a site is up to their negotiation skills to be honest. Each agency and each client would have what they would regard as a silly price for a site and it’s up to them to negotiate on that.

JC: A lot! The demand for these signs at key locations is high, which determines the price.

Which types of billboards produce better rates?

CB: If you’ve got a static panel you own the panel, if you’ve got a digital panel you’re one of a cer tain number of faces. Normally a face is cheaper than a static panel and you have a higher share of voice if you are the static panel. In terms of the static silos, the Taylor Squares, those sorts of panels are the most expensive in the country.

JC: Digital OOH has also improved flexibility, so there is no need to blow out the budget to achieve a good campaign – and landmark sites are now more accessible, not less.

With static, there’s only one ‘spot ’ every four weeks, so plan ahead if you want to use them as par t of your campaign.

What is your favourite outdoor element?

CB: Each of them have their own strengths. If you are looking for a lot of frequency, buses are great. If you are driving a path to purchase or something clever with creative, small format is great. Whereas if you are looking for mass impact, large format is incredibly powerful. So it’s difficult to say what my favourite is – I don’t really have one to be honest.

JC: I love that we can now access multiple audiences at scale in almost real-time, using digital screen networks in airpor ts, cafes, CBDs, gyms, malls, of fices, pubs, rail stations, universities and of course by the side of the road. There’s no standard size or format across the various networks so scaled dynamic messaging is trick y for most brands, but we have a product called Liveposter which can automate and optimise the content delivery process across all networks from a single control point. Our research shows that dynamic campaigns have 18% better spontaneous recall, 53% improvement to message recall and a 10% rise in purchase intent.

What appeals most to advertisers?

JC: Digital OOH is very appealing, either in small or larger format, as it’s more flexible, with shorter lead times and reduced production costs. Each format and environment creates a different opportunity for brands to connect, so smart advertisers are most attracted to the sites that enable them to put the right message in front of the right people, at the most appropriate time.

Why is outdoor having a renaissance?

CB: I think there is a few of reasons for outdoor’s resurgence. They’ve spent a lot of money of capital investment to improve their products significantly in the last five year. A lot of cleaned up panels, innovation, illumination and digitisation.

The decline in audience on linear TV means people are looking for mass impacts in different formats. Depending on what you are trying to achieve, outdoor can deliver a very quick brand message and drive a different measure of awareness but quite broadly.

And outdoor now delivers a far more compelling story with the path to purchase, which has made it very attractive for a lot of FMCGs who traditionally might not have spent a lot in outdoor. There's been a huge investment in data about the consumer, their product and technology into their products.

What about your favourite billboard?

CB: I do like the Taylor Square billboards. They’ve always been a personal favourite of mine, but that might also be because I drive past them a lot. So there is always that whole see your own ad element. I also like those digital billboards when you walk into Sydney airport, they would be in my favourite consideration set.

JC: I don’t really have a favourite, but this one always sparks fond memories. It was part of a Nescafe campaign I planned in 2004. It was the first campaign I worked on where the creative team really nailed the contextual relevance for the OOH. Nescafe weren’t users of OOH before this campaign, but they have been since then.

What famous Australian landmark do you think would work really well as a billboard?

CB: I reckon the pylons on the Harbour Bridge, some portraits down the side and see what happens.

JC: I think the Opera House makes an amazing canvas for Vivid – OOH content at its best. But billboards should be landmarks in their own right, either because of the scale they achieve, or because of the way that brands use them to communicate, and the relationship that people develop with those sites and those brands over time. The Coke sign in Kings Cross is a good example.

What do you think is the next big thing in outdoor that people aren’t discussing?

CB: I think there’s a place for ecommerce. There will be a faster way to look at a billboard or image and purchase through mobile (see box below). That transaction will become a lot easier for consumers and quite tangible. At the moment it’s still quite clunk y and I think there will be a much cleaner way to do it. There will be a much simpler one-to-one communication where you see the image and buy the product. Outdoor isn’t yet talking much about ecommerce, it’s more on data behavioural targeting and programmatic.

JC: OOH is in a period of radical change and will soon find a new equilibrium, supported by location-based audience data which will allow more relevant and real-time, right time messages and content. This is in a world where consumers are actively seeking ways to avoid brand messaging in other media and becoming increasingly annoyed by intrusive, irrelevant interruptions to their fast-moving lives. Brands will recognise the negative ef fect of placing the wrong message at the wrong time in the wrong place, not just as ‘wastage’, but as ‘damage’ to their equity.

Algorithms will target viewers (or their virtual personal assistants) individually through most content and functional devices, so as to minimise ‘damage’ – and OOH will become the last broadcast medium for brands to reach and influence their customers.

This first appeared in the print magazine, subscribe here if you know what's good for you.

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