24/01/2018 - Blogs

Mediatel's OOH conference highlights the consistency, growth potential and digital relevance of OOH

OOH in 2018 – “We’ve Never Been Bigger; Never Been Better!”

When Talon joined Mediatel, JCDecaux and Primesight to help bring together the themes for Mediatel’s 2018 Out of Home event, the pressure was on to open up some of the debate around the industry’s evolution and apparent struggles to define ourselves as a digital or broadcast channel wrestling with automation. Well, the industry bared all and thrashed it out on a Tuesday afternoon in January.

In three hours of debate, there emerged a clear consensus around Branding, Trading and the future. An audience of 150 got a very clear perspective on what the industry was bringing them in uncertain economic and technological times.

As one panellist put it, “we’ve never been bigger; never been better”. The industry seemed aligned in delivering unique and relevant client communication that genuinely transposes the forgotten era of branding to a digital world, sometimes “out of control”.

Creative Focus

The conference chair was rightly provocative throughout, but sometimes tiring in his assessment of an evolved industry. It was great to see O2’s Simon Valcarcel expound the dual role of creative and media in showcasing the celebrated Oops campaign, whilst justifying his company’s ring-fencing of an Out of Home budget to ensure the delivery of brand fame. In the simplest terms you will hear from a client on top of their game, OOH delivers “fame and retail activation” and to that we bring “our own creative focus”.

Other great campaigns were discussed in the course of the afternoon; Dallas Wiles from JCDecaux referenced VW’s Bam the Ram #BornConfident campaign for the brand’s T-Roc launch, using digital, classic and special build OOH to magnificent effect. We also heard from the Olympic Holiday client, brave enough to stand up and recount his effective use of the media and a flighting strategy that got people engaged with the travel brand and active. Google’s multi-format Pixel campaign was referenced for its media first use of digital buses and most speakers could reference the campaigns that were defining the use of context or smart planning in the medium.

The Year of the Brand

As Dave McEvoy and a number of speakers referenced, 2018 is the year of the brand in OOH; JCDecaux’s own upfronts event in November had celebrated the role of the channel in pushing smart, clever and mass communication.

The panel dedicated to discussing the role of OOH in delivering key branding metrics was the day’s highlight, a back to basics reference that united the industry and one that meets the economic and consumer needs of today.

Talon’s Strategy Director Sophie Pemberton highlighted “OOH being smarter and talking to people collectively to build brands”, whilst “getting the balance right between mass reach and targeting had become easier through a combination of Route, better data and clients wanted to deliver greater relevance in their communication”. This was something fellow panelist Richard Simkins (Exterion Media) called “sophisticated mass targeting”.

The effect of this, added Pemberton, was that the industry “is on a knife-edge, but opening up to DR and other brands we wouldn’t normally engage through digital OOH, but still using OOH in the right way for the brand”. A growth strategy that defines the specialist’s role in OOH, in answer to one of the chair’s laboured points.

In the final session, Talon’s Adrian Skelton, Primesight’s Naren Patel and McEvoy concluded that OOH simply delivers brand value, reach and creativity; a transition of sorts that builds and enhances OOH and challenges media thinking about the way we allocate comms budgets.

Digital First

The industry has clearly put digital first in its investment programme, a strategy paying dividends as Tim Bleakley, Ocean’s CEO highlighted by referencing recent IPA research showing digital OOH’s doubling of its profit-measured effectiveness.

Dallas Wiles noted the recent doubling of spend “in the month, for the month”, reflecting a concentration of short term impact. Fine for accessibility to a broader range of clients, less so for those bigger client spenders looking to secure specific locations for specific dates.

But digital is driving OOH growth. Not, as one panellist thought, however, in coming directly from press campaigns, but from a greater relevance, flexibility and integration for OOH and, as Wiles stressed, from increasingly “scalable contextual and personalised campaigns”. JCDecaux feels shifting our trading mentality “from panels to impressions” (i.e. audiences), will have greater impact. Sarah Walker from Essence added that we can still deliver necessary reach of the medium but at high frequency”.

The event's only presenter, Wired Consulting’s Thomas Upchurch, described the evolution of smart cities and the rise of “emotionally intelligent technology, facial recognition and immersive experiences” being key consumer influences of the future. They are present in OOH, as referenced in some of the campaign examples. This played later to Dave McEvoy’s claim for us living through “OOH’s wonderful era”.

Best of Both Worlds

Dallas Wiles was quick to emphasise – in light of the chair’s very questioning of the medium – that OOH “has nothing to apologise for”. He described the “best of both worlds” – a channel that can reach people, to generate real fame for brands, whilst being agile enough to deliver context, real time and smart messages.

As cities were making “experiences more seamless” (Upchurch), OOH is delivering a product that matches those environments, delivering “widespread evidence of accountability” (Wiles) and “effectiveness” (Bleakley, Skelton) that the industry is communicating widely to clients.

More is to be done here, but “technology and smart data” is enabling this conversation (Talon’s Skelton) despite digital OOH’s “performance without personal attribution” qualities (Naren Patel) and in contrast to what AMV BBDO’s Craig Mawdsley described as the “perceived accountability of channels like Facebook” that can “measure only what you’re doing”, but not exactly harnessing a “golden age of creativity”. More debate is certainly needed here.

“We’ve never been bigger, we’ve never been better”

The Olympic Holidays client reiterated his “positive experience of taking money out of digital media and using OOH to drive brand fame” from the floor.

Sophie Pemberton’s belief that as an industry on a “knife edge…“we’ve never been bigger, we’ve never been better” was a fitting reflection on what many of the panelists articulated that OOH is consistently looking to turn its digital advantages to classic media objectives of reach, fame and relevance.

The event’s video summary concludes that growth, creativity and mindset changes are at the heart of an industry experiencing a change for the better. Skelton referenced Talon’s smarter as standard approach and the goal for growth, crucial in the continued evolution of OOH. The event’s speakers and audience also called for more collaboration to get those messages across; a message worth taking from an event that at least confirmed the progress and a bright future where creative and media has the potential to work together to drive real change in a digital channel that has real opportunity ahead.