Out of Home – the long and winding road to an advertising revolution, by Viola Outdoor’s Chris Moran

Chris Moran, editorial and copy head, Viola Communications explains all about OOH advertising and what is coming ahead with the digital formats.

The words Out of Home always sound slightly wrong to me, as if there’s a grammar mistake concealed within (rather like ‘away from keyboard’), but the images that those three words conjure up reflect a journey of over 100 years of advertising to people who were anywhere but home.

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Billboards (literally a board onto which bills, or notices, could be pasted) are the most visible manifestation of the concept of outdoor advertising, and surprisingly, despite quite humble beginnings, still account for a huge slice of the market.

In 1920’s America, roadside billboards were rare, because there weren’t enough cars on the road to justify the expense. It wasn’t until Henry Ford and the Model T enabled a huge slice of the population to afford a car they could just hop into and ‘go for a drive’ that advertisers realised that billboards, usually hand-painted, were not only viable but actually incredibly effective.

One of the world’s oldest forms of promotion, outdoor advertising globally now encompasses a then unforeseen amount of media possibilities, growing from the first-ever ‘billboard’ in ancient Egypt where tall stone obelisks were used to publicise laws and treaties to a proliferation of messaging on city-based or roadside hoardings and posters, in bus shelters, airports, shopping centres and malls, sports stadiums, inside and outside buses, trains, metros and taxis, and now the exponential explosion in digital formats.

In the UAE, a similar evolutionary pattern has been taking place over the years; once you would see a painted sign at the side of the road promoting soft drinks or motor oil, and the closer you got to a city, the bigger and more sophisticated (or more maintained) these messages became – now we have a thriving OOH industry which stands on the tipping point between the traditional and the ultra-technological, a paradigm shift as a reaction to the proliferation of new technology and constantly changing consumption patterns.

Viola Outdoor is very much aware of the huge potential of this proliferation – as the leading provider of out-of-home advertising media space in Abu Dhabi, Viola Outdoor has exclusive access to the majority of outdoor advertising spaces with lampposts, bridge banners, bus wrapping and others throughout the Emirate.

A division of Viola Communications and operating in Abu Dhabi for almost 20 years, Viola Outdoor ensures optimal engagement with people on behalf of our clients when they are out and about. Whether building awareness in a specific neighbourhood, across the city or over the busiest highways, we pride ourselves on providing the right exposure for brands, delivering results and maximising our client’s return on investment.

Viola OOH combines physical presence, prime locations, and immediacy in the most visible advertising environment available, reaching consumers and delivering the right message at the right time and place. Combined with other advertising in an integrated media plan, OOH is proven to extend reach, amplify a campaign, and drive consumers to engage with brands online and in-store.

Spotlight lampposts are the ideal advertising medium for reaching an urban, mobile populace in the areas where they live, work, study and spend their leisure time. Clutter-free and easily visible, even among Abu Dhabi’s downtown high rise buildings, the high-quality vinyl flex-faces lend an eye-catching appeal to every advertising message, concentrating on brand and product excellence, while promoting a positive image.

The bridge banners span the highways and byways of the city and its suburbs, bridging the space between mid-and long-term campaigns, placing brand messaging in front of motorists in a large format with optimized sizes based on location and viewing distance and are free of any obstruction.

Wrapping a bus promotes brands and messaging on Abu Dhabi’s first transit media. The city’s wide transportation network of buses, with the majority circulating around the clock, generate unlimited reach, targeting all commuters, drivers, passengers and pedestrians from different angles. These moving billboards come in a variety of high-impact formats, ranging from side panels to fully wrapped buses.

Outdoor advertising allows advertisers to enjoy extended engagement with audiences in ways other media simply cannot match with the ability to target specific geographic locations and gives creative advertisers a big, bold canvas to showcase their campaigns via a platform that can deliver huge brand stature.

In an age of ever-increasing media fragmentation, OOH is more relevant and more powerful than ever. It reaches people no matter how they consume their media, making them stop, notice, think, and buy. No other advertising format is more ever-present, or more creatively versatile and Viola’s OOH media formats surround and immerse hard-to-reach consumers when away from their homes.

Keeping track of all of this is an immense task, and we constantly strive to improve standards in all of our activities. To that end, we have developed a QR-Code based quality-assurance system that records all field activity data, including proof of installation, maintenance, cleaning and repair. At its heart is a management system that lists all outdoor facilities, collecting and evaluating comprehensive data concerning these facilities. As a result, our OOH products are always in mint condition, providing a top environment for customer brand messaging.

And what’s next for the Out-of-Home industry? Digital. Currently, traditional billboards have to be manually changed, but digital displays offer the opportunity to instantly change the image, whether static or anamorphic motion capture – multiple versions of a single campaign or multiple campaigns on a single unit, the opportunities are endless. Another benefit is that digital Out-of-Home media can’t be switched off, skipped or blocked, so unlike TV and online adverts, cannot be so easily avoided. In recent years, this kind of advertising has begun to really take off, from giant 3D robotic illusion LED billboards to city-wide smart screens that incorporate interactive elements like touch-sensitive ink that plays audio when touched, sensors that can tell when the screen is being watched, or even, and I’m really not sure how far we can take this one, screens that use facial recognition to personalise content. That may be a disruption too far… but if the OOH industry is going to be disrupted, then it is Viola Outdoor that will lead the charge in Abu Dhabi.