The OOH landscape – automation of dynamic and contextual advertising

Before looking at some of the most innovative campaigns, it’s worth discussing what technology is offered by the big outdoor advertising companies.

Both Clear Channel and JCDecaux have what are effectively digital content management systems.

These platforms (titled play IQ and SmartCONTENT, respectively) allow the right content to be served to the right place at the right time.

So, not only is booking and planning conducted via an online platform but so, too, is the dynamic and contextual serving of the creative.

This means that creative can be targeted according to weather conditions, time, location, or based on live data feeds.

This sort of creative is nothing new – the infamous British Airways ads that responded to overhead planes (see below) were executed way back in 2013 – but the ability for OOH inventory to offer this at scale is a 2016 development.

Rolling out this sort of capability across digital screens is now a priority, with JCDecaux launching a digital creative hub, ‘JCDecaux Dynamic’, this year and the company’s Chairman stating he expects 50% of ad revenue to be digital by 2017.

There are other OOH innovations that have generated varying amounts of buzz over the past five years, notably proximity interactions and augmented reality that involves the audience.

However, some of this real-life interactivity is a feature of custom builds and doesn’t represent a step change as marked as that delivered by a network of real-time, dynamic and contextual screens.

Before we look at some recent campaigns, it’s also worth mentioning Route, the Joint Industry Committee.

Route produces extensive research aimed at providing accurate estimates of audience figures, demographics and behaviour for OOH.

It does this by tracking large samples of people, analysing millions of points of geo-satellite data, as well as conducting eye-tracking studies.

Though programmatically traded OOH ads are an extremely distant possibility (in reality, we may never be able to know just how many people have been in the vicinity of an ad), digital technology enables Route to provide accurate oversight to the industry, giving fairer/more accurate pricing, and transparency for advertisers.

Why digital out-of-home advertising is not really digital (yet) 

The case studies

1. Weather as context – ActionAid and #WashedAway

An elegantly simple use of local weather data comes from ActionAid, which ran ads in Piccadilly Circus to promote awareness of floods in Bangladesh.

The ad was triggered to display if the local weather was rainy (using live data from the closest Met Office weather station), with creative changing depending on how heavy the rainfall.

2. Live data feeds – Jaguar and Wimbledon

The integration of live data feeds has been capitalised on by brands wanting to sponsor sporting events.

Jaguar’s #FeelWimbledon campaign used IBM and JCDecaux technology to deliver live match scores, fastest serve data and more to a network of digital screens.

Sport has long been the holy grail for advertisers, given the public’s broad interest, and now brands can tap into this enthusiasm through genuinely relevant and interesting OOH creative.

3. Agile creative – The Sun and Euro 2016

The ability to tee up digital ads to deliver at specific times means advertisers can plan much more agile creative.

There’s no need for an ad to run for two weeks – it can be designed to run for an afternoon.

The Sun took advantage of this during Euro 2016, running digital OOH creative during the day which referenced that evening’s games.

4. Live data feeds and agile creative – Walkers Crisps and Leicester City

Walkers’ involvement with both Leicester City and Gary Lineker meant it was ideally placed to capitalise on one of the most talked about parts of the club’s title-winning season – Lineker’s promise to present Match of the Day in his pants.

As the title looked more likely, Walkers ran ads including a live ‘countdown to kit off’, with creative updated with the latest match scores.

If the scores moved in Leicester City’s favour, packets of crisps were gradually removed to reveal a stylised picture of a naked Lineker.

5. Social interaction – Continental Tyres and Euro 2016

Continental Tyres was an official sponsor of Euro 2016, and integrated questions about the European tournament into its OOH ads.

The brand asked for people to tweet their answers to football related questions using a hashtag (#ContiQuiz).

The audience’s tweets were then included in the ads themselves, with prizes on offer to those that took part.

This technology allows ads to provide greater depth of engagement for super fans or competition entrants. It also affords real-time data capture.

6. Smartphone triggers – QR and beacons in China

In my introduction, I downplayed the impact of beacons, NFC and QR codes on OOH advertising.

But although I think these technologies are not as significant as dynamic creative for digital screens (via CMS systems), they are significant in the Chinese market.

QR codes particularly have been around for a while and are used for a variety of functions, often to follow a WeChat account.

WeChat’s diverse range of functionality and penetration into the market has enabled this.

Coach brings us a good example of beacons in OOH at Hong Kong airport, with people given the chance to win a signature bag by sharing a picture of one of the ads on social media.

WeChat users are able to shake their phone in the vicinity of ads to be taken through the campaign on their smartphone.

Image via Moodie Davitt report

coach ads

In conclusion…

As ever with digital technology, it’s all about the elegance of the implementation and the quality of the creative.

As digital OOH matures, more agencies will develop more relevant, interesting and eye-catching ads utilising live data feeds.

So, if you haven’t considered how your own OOH marketing creative could be improved in real-time, now’s the time to get your thinking cap on.

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