Signs of the times - the brave new world of outdoor

Rachael Micallef
By Rachael Micallef | 7 July 2016

In this four part series, Rachael Micallef explores the brave new world of outdoor and how those leading the innovation charge believe technology will change the way we live in. See Part Two: Out of home media buyers bare all, Part Three: Media owners nominate the seven best outdoor campaigns and Part Four: Monetising out of home engagement - what's next?

“The out of home (OOH) industry is experiencing a renaissance,” Outdoor Media Association (OMA) CEO Charmaine Moldrich said and looking at the sector as a whole, in many ways it has. The past 18 months have seen a renewed focus on discovery and exploration within OOH, guided by new technology and advances spawning fresh interest in the sector from outside and within the advertising industry.

In 2015, there was a huge boost in the development of digital out of home (DOOH), from the building of huge roadside screens to the unveiling of a digitalised street furniture network across the country, and this year looks poised to continue that trajectory.

According to PwC’s latest Australian Entertainment and Media Outlook, OOH achieved the strongest growth of any traditional advertising medium in 2015 and is forecast to continue to grow, particularly with the impact of digital. DOOH currently comprises 25.6% of OOH advertising, but by 2020 will represent nearly half of all OOH advertising at 48.2%.

The same trend plays out in Nielsen adspend numbers for 2015 and in monthly SMI data reflecting media agency bookings. The most recent SMI figures from May found that outdoor adspend increased by 22.8% year–on–year.

That growth, according to PwC, is likely due to a boost in population, urbanisation and infrastructure investments such as Sydney’s Light Rail project, along with technological advancement within the medium itself.

The industry has already made real–time and dynamic messaging part of the offer and has started turning its head further into the future, eyeing off automation and eventually programmatic buying for its inventory.

In short, as Goa CEO and joint MD, Chris Tyquin, said, “the world’s oldest medium has become the fastest”.

If 2015 was the year DOOH truly arrived in Australia, then 2016 looks pegged to be the year it comes into its own. And not just in terms of offering and capability.

OOH players are looking at the world around them and taking a greater view of how their product fits into the lives and societies they are a part of.

“Our industry is excited to be at the forefront of the digital change,” Moldrich said.

“OMA members are harnessing the amazing power of digital and other technologies to improve their offering to advertisers and to people experiencing their city.”

OOH’s new cookie

Chief among priorities for all OOH players has been building digital networks which have seen a huge amount of capital investment for all players over the past 18 months.

It’s also resulted in the launch of massive screen innovations for all firms, from VMO’s ultra high resolution 4K screens, Goa’s digital Goa Grid, to JCDecaux’s recently launched Digital Citylight street furniture network.

JCDecaux GM, sales and marketing, Max Eburne, said the company has started the digital transformation of some of the best street furniture assets in Australia in locations such as Sydney’s Martin Place and Pitt Street Mall.

Adshel rolled out its national street furniture network in October last year, with its phase two expansion already scheduled for 2016. Adshel CEO Rob Atkinson said the quick roll–out of its second part highlights its success.

“The digital network allows us to display by time and place, so it feeds into that whole piece around contextual relevance,” Atkinson said.

“Engagement via mobile or location is becoming OOH’s new cookie and the whole scale with targeting opportunity through data and technology is allowing us as a sector to become super relevant.”

But as Ooh!Media CMO Michaela Chan said, “digitisation is just part of the story”, with creative capability and scale also changing the way advertisers eye OOH.

“We are beginning to see a commercial shift in how advertisers utilise our growing digital
network, to target and engage with audiences,”
Chan said.

“Advertisers are extending campaign engagement beyond the outdoor screen to online and social channels via mobile. They can also rotate multiple campaign creative executions, depending on variable conditions such as time of day, weather conditions and special events.”

To boost capabilities in this area, Ooh!Media launched its Excite screens in October 2015 that feature multi-touch, gesture control, voice recognition technology, webcams, Wi-Fi, social engagement and tap payments.

APN Outdoor has also focused on engagement with the launch of its XtrackTV product, that introduced video and audio in train stations where dwell times tend to be high. It recently partnered with Sky News to deliver news content to the sites and is looking at a full national roll–out later this year.

“It’s impacted the outdoor landscape considerably,” CEO Richard Herring said.

“As we continue to develop it further with content opportunities and dynamic integration, we know it is attracting more and more attention.”

Christian Zavecz, national strategy director of Queensland–based QMS, noted that when it comes to digital screens in the roadside space, “the technology is very similar across the board”. What is more important, is the ability to deliver scalable campaigns that work.

To that end, QMS recently launched its dedicated technology hub, Digilab, designed to develop new initiatives across the business, including mobile technologies such as the use of near field communication (NFC) and QR codes.

Digilab also ensures the delivery of dynamic ad serving and houses a content management system which allows QMS to monitor and tweak content on all its digital assets in real–time, and responds to live triggers such as weather and social media integration.

QMS CMO, Sara Lappage, said one example of Digilab working for clients was a recent campaign with Fairfax that saw live news headlines delivered to the city of Melbourne from The Age. Using the Digilab platform, Fairfax was able to update the copy in seconds.

Anthony Deeble, MD of VMO (formerly Val Morgan Outdoor) said while the uptake of digital has been promising, he has seen a lot of moves towards “digital static” screens, as opposed to dynamic screens.

It means advertisers are simply taking advantage of the digital delivery of DOOH for the same kind of work they would run on traditional billboards, rather than the unique capabilities it offers. He said capability is advancing faster than adoption and the technologies are still under–utilised, and poorly understood.


An audience-led future

In an ROI-obsessed world, the outdoor industry is now using data to provide deep audience insights and profiling tools that it was never able to before. That, paired with the technology, is what’s driving the growth.

Ooh!Media recently partnered with data giant Quantium to use its transaction and behavioural data, overlayed with specific Ooh!Media signage locations, to enable clients to create highly targeted campaigns.

“The most compelling aspect for the Quantium data is that it is developed from billions of consumer transactions capturing actual spending behaviour from the majority of Australians and allows advertisers to target audiences based on actual location and transactional behaviour,” Chan said.

“It provides the foundation for an audienceled future that will help advertisers to plan and measure OOH campaigns with greater effectiveness and efficiency.”

Data is also a focal point for JCDecaux, which launched its geo-spacial planning tool Orbit in October last year. Eburne explained that Orbit adds nine different industry data sources to household ABS data in order to help marketers and media planners better understand its audiences.

“OOH, as a channel, has finally come to the party in terms of data,” Eburne said.

But with data now at the fore for OOH, he said digital transparency is rising as a challenge. He noted that the industry measurement MOVE doesn’t take “share of voice” into account when calculating reach and frequency, which means they can sometimes be over-inflated.

“Viewability is a hot topic in digital right now,” Eburne said. “But OOH has a related issue of its own in terms of digital transparency.”

VMO is also taking insights and targeting to the next level as it prepares to launch the second iteration of its bespoke measurement tool, Digital outdoor Audience in Real Time, or DART 2.0.

The enhanced capability will help advertisers determine the mood of their outdoor viewers so they can be targeted with the right message in real–time. Deeble said DART takes targeting beyond scheduling to time of day, by targeting who is present around the screen.

“DART is enabling us to participate in a highly efficient way, programmatically. If we weren’t able to understand the audience that is present around our screens then we wouldn’t be able to deliver specific content to them anyway,” Deeble said.

“There is no doubt that there is a greater level of interest in creating efficiencies around reaching particular audience sects.”

A beacon in the distance

Most OOH media owners see the future of the industry as automated, connected and interactive and are looking at shaping their businesses to take advantage of that future.

Atkinson said the future of the industry hinges around four trends, which gives insight into where Adshel will be focusing in the near future: digital, smart cities, automated media buys and data. Part of its view of the future means the business is looking at boosting its network’s connection to mobile technologies beyond its beacon network, which saw 3000 rolled out across its street furniture network last year.

Goa’s Tyquin believes there is the potential to push engagement even further. While keeping mum on the details, he says the business is planning on launching a new innovation in the second half of the year which will aim to address this.

“We think there is an opportunity to transform the medium from passive passers-by, to an engaged audience, much like a radio station where people tune into it,” Tyquin said.

“We’re going to get down to content and I’m not talking ad content. We’ll introduce editorial content to draw audiences in and if we can, we have a far, far greater chance of making our client’s ads more impactful.”

Herring agreed that reaching consumers in “captive environments” will be key and noted APN Outdoor aims to lead the industry when it comes to digital roll-out.

“We are very much in this space already through our transit technology offerings that are set for some exciting developments in the short term, as well as our presence in the rail space and airport environments,” Herring said. “We see a lot of potential in these and will be focusing on developing these strategies.

A static decision

Atkinson believes the renaissance of the medium, sparked by digital, is making the industry and OOH vendors themselves, view static with new eyes.

“We’re thinking smarter about innovation of the paper product, the heritage product too,” he said.

Herring agreed the attributes that have made static so enduringly popular are still relevant today and that statics are always going to be a part of its business, even launching a specific product campaign promoting billboards as “The Originals”.

“While digital is no doubt a huge factor in the success and trajectory of our industry, there is a lot to be said for the tried and tested,” Herring said.

“Static billboards are still relevant and effective today for the same reason they have been for the last 100 years. We find that static billboards make brands famous and remain to be some of the most iconic locations throughout the country."

The creative divide

The flipside to creative capability is creative output, and it’s what Lappage called “the biggest change’ in the industry over the past few years.

Lappage said that traditionally, OOH has been a go-to destination for big impact brand campaigns, but that the technological capabilities which allow OOH players to change messaging has meant the medium is also able to tackle different briefs, including retail campaigns.

“We’re able to support campaigns that we just wouldn’t have been able to do in the past,” Lappage revealed. “Digital has allowed us to become a content–driven medium for specific audiences. It’s opened up sectors like retail and even real estate.”

However, Goa’s Tyquin isn’t convinced that enough creatives are aware of the capabilities of the new tech, which is impacting its uptake.

“It’s pretty clear to us that the conversations we’re having with media buyers aren’t filtering down to creative,” Tyquin said. “As an industry, we need to broaden the dial beyond the media buying side and the creative side, because the capabilities need to be worked out right at the beginning when they’re working on the creative idea.”

To that end, Goa has started working specifically with creative agencies in order to increase uptake.

Zavecz said QMS is seeing creative agencies and media agencies embrace the digital aspects of the medium, but he believes the next six to 12 months will see a stream of innovative campaigns come through industry as more agencies grasp its creative potential.

At present there are few examples of how digital outdoor campaigns can utilise the technology that truly demonstrate the scope. VMO’s work with Pedigree, which turned digital billboards into donation points that connected with contactless payment technology, is one that comes to mind.

“There has been an embracing of the digital technology, but there is still so much opportunity across clients and advertising sectors,” Zavecz said.

“It’s gone through its initial phase, and there have been a lot of clients that have done some really good things. But once they start seeing more of it, there will be more of a focus from both clients and agencies and then there will be a lot more work that comes out.”

Eburne agrees that with more and more studies demonstrating the increased effectiveness of getting the right message in the right place and the right time, contextual advertising “is the next logical step for digital OOH”.

“The opportunity for dynamic creative is massive and the benefit of contextual advertising is just starting to be recognised,” Eburne said. “The holy grail is close; data will tell us where and when is best to advertise, who will consumer it and in what environment.

“The best creative message, as dictated by those parameters, can then be serviced in real-time.”

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