Hit refresh, by TBWA/Raad’s Joe Laham

Digital has breathed a new lease of life into out-of-home, writes TBWA/Raad’s managing director, Joe Laham.

Digitisation has breathed new life into one of the oldest forms of advertising: OOH. The medium’s transformation, which is being driven by a drastic re-evaluation of strategies for creating brand awareness, was also further accelerated by the pandemic. More importantly, this digital OOH revolution is now paving the way to very exciting opportunities.

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First, let’s talk numbers. Digitisation has had a huge impact on OOH advertising. Recent research suggests that digital out-of-home (DOOH) contributes to almost 30 per cent of OOH revenues worldwide, so advertisers that continue to reinvent themselves will likely succeed in the coming years. Furthermore, a recent KPMG report pointed out that digital OOH has witnessed an 11 per cent annual growth rate (CAGR) over the past five years. Additionally, the value of the global digital-out-of-home market is expected to reach $41.35bn by 2027 at a 12.05 per cent compound annual growth rate.

Advertisers should leverage this growth trend to increase their return on investment by implementing new ideas. In 2022, repeating the same message to audiences just won’t do. Advertisers should look into harnessing the power of innovative technologies (such as augmented reality and programmatic), disruptive executions, cultural engagement tactics (hyper-personalised engagement) and powerful storytelling.

OOH is not dead; it just hit refresh, and its importance lies in all the above-mentioned factors that will positively influence market growth. Moreover, continuous innovations in display technologies will further propel OOH market growth. But the return to OOH advertising should be accompanied by measurable results.

In terms of disruptive OOH executions, a great example of combining innovative use of technology, physical infrastructure and powerful storytelling is Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Highway Gallery. The execution was a true testament to how a traditional medium can be disrupted to generate brand love and increase footfall. The immense size of the museum and the masterful curation of its artworks were not enough to drive visits. Louvre Abu Dhabi needed to give people an immersive sneak peek into the experience it offered, beyond aesthetics. It had to give residents a taste of the museum to capture their minds and convince them to visit, which is what the campaign successfully achieved.

This brings us to another important point: brands invest a lot of effort into crafting out-of-the-box stories, with the objective of boosting engagement. But a great story is never enough. Consumers must be able to connect with the story in an authentic and seamless manner before they can trust the story subconsciously.

Furthermore, as much as advertisers are tempted to rationalise using technologies where their ROI can effectively be measured, the potential of culturally relevant OOH engagement tactics is bigger than ever. Smart engagement has helped democratise a dinosaur medium, resulting in the ability to be far more effective than 20 years back.

A great example of culturally relevant OOH advertising came from The Lebanese Army during Lebanese Independence Day. In a first-of-its-kind execution, the OOH medium across Lebanon was turned into a crowdsourcing platform, where people could express their personal opinions and demands in real-time, climbing on cranes to spray their own words directly onto billboards. People’s contributions were then gathered and broadcast across digital OOH. The use of technology helped the public interact with the advertisements and share valuable data in real-time. As a result, the campaign reached more than 3 million people; thousands of slogans were created with 100,000 reactions online and a 30 per cent increase in positive sentiment towards The Lebanese Army.

Augmented reality (AR) will also play a very important role in shaping the future of OOH. Brands are now looking towards investing in immersive experiences that can help build stronger emotional connections with consumers. A recent study by Kinetic, for example, showed that AR does increase the sense of presence of objects compared with the equivalent digital image. Also, brands that adopt new AR technologies will not only benefit by driving distinctive engagement but can also collect data and interact with the target audience. As a result, AR and virtual reality (VR) will enable OOH to become smarter and more engaging.

According to Kinetic, OOH can work with AR to deepen the overall experience, expand the impact of the broadcast reach and bring about detailed insights into reaching audiences at the right time and place, delivering a more targeted activation.

Besides, the size of the screen doesn’t matter. Instead of relying on large formats only, advertisers are using smaller formats in busy public places such as airports, waiting areas, public transport areas, malls, gas stations and playgrounds to deliver their campaigns. The powerful combination of audience-based targeting, place-based targeting and multi-channel re-targeting, fuelled by tech, has helped revolutionise the entire OOH ecosystem, leading to a powerful performance-marketing channel that is measurable and can drive digital conversion.

The potential of OOH is endless, as long as advertisers make sure their approach to the channel is always in beta and they constantly leverage the power of data, technology and innovation to drive emotional connections.