Do this simple test: Ask anyone in an agency what outdoor advertising is and chances are the first thing they will say is “billboards”. Do the same at the next client meeting and you are likely to get the same answer. This should not be surprising, though, as billboards have been the dominant form of outdoor advertising for decades. Now, do the same and ask what out-of-home advertising is,and there will be a momentary silence. If you are also silent right now, let us shed some light.
To keep it short and simple, out-of-home (OOH) advertising is communication that literally reaches consumers while they are outside their home, when they are on the go, at public places, in transit or in waiting. In general, OOH advertising formats fall into six main categories: billboards, street, roads, highways, transit and any other non-conventional format. And because we live in a digital age, technology applies to all these formats.
So, now that the air is cleared and the weather outside is glorious, we need to ask: Why is there still so much hype about billboards? Take a drive along the highway and you’ll know what we mean. The answer is not that straightforward. To a creative, the mention of OOH results in the firing of neurons in the brain. After all, there are enough great examples out there. To account management, this is that opportunity to bring something avantgarde to the client. This is the big break, the opportunity to be outstanding. To a marketer, on the other hand, the question of ROI is raised and the whole perspective changes.
The reality today is that most brands out there are looking at bottom lines. building equity is great, but gaining immediate results is a priority. They cannot be blamed for thinking this way, as the market dynamics have drastically transformed in recent times. What the general masses out there don’t know is that agencies and clients constantly lock horns on what should be done or what could be explored in the OOH arena. A quick audit of ideas put aside is worthy of gracing a publication called “The Greatest Story That Is On Hold”. And the battle continues.
This brings us to us. Instead of being frustrated, dejected and derailed, we looked at creating a win-win formula that works for both ends of the spectrum, while keeping in mind the consumer who is sitting in between. We do want to iterate that this isn’t a compromise but a way forward, which could prove to be beneficial for all parties. Give marketers what they want based on their consumer research and ROI needs, but find ways to make OOH advertising an experience. By tracking the commute and footprint of the targeted consumer, a lot of alternative, effective and cost-effective solutions can be developed. With a little more persistence, something creatively different can be devised.
IBM’s People For Smarter Cities project is a great example of how communication can be very functional, and at the same time drive the brand’s core essence. Ikea’s RGB Billboard, on the other hand, demonstrates how three different messages can be utilised in a single space. And of course there’s the Magic Of Flying from British Airways, which uses digital in a non-literal way. What is interesting is that all these examples are just billboards – and we have the other five categories we haven’t even touched on.
Closer to home, there have been some interesting usages of OOH media. And by interesting, we mean smart. Hop on board the Metro and take a look at some of the stations. While there are a few that are location-centric, there are quite a number that are “brand-led”. Another smart example is the naming of an event arena that is associated with the world’s most popular beverage. While the investment may be quite substantial, the reach of the brand is definitely celestial. Off and on, we do come across OOH innovations, mostly at a small scale. When it comes to larger formats we tend to stick by the rules and to the space that is made available by media owners.
So the big question is: Can we and should we push the boundaries while maintaining the yin and the yang? The answer really is quite simple: Give your clients what they want, and at the same time give yourself what you want.
By the way, why hasn’t anybody wrapped the seats of taxis, buses and the Metro till now? Hmmm… we’re giving one of our clients a call right now.