Outdoor ads are no longer just billboards and wallscapes with quirky copy and bold images. Venture out to the breeding ground of all things outdoor and experimental, New York's Times Square, and what you'll see is the future of local and global out-of-home advertisements.
Mountain Dew made a personal connection with its audience last year when it placed billboards in Times Square that enabled passersby to have their picture taken as if they were in the billboard. Brand loyalists could strike a pose -- think smashing a soda can on your head, or just drinking from one -- and have their profile and a can of Mountain Dew appear on the billboard. BBDO created the campaign, which launched on the heels of a Nike campaign on the Reuters billboard, also in Times Square. The Nike effort enabled bystanders to use their cell phones to interact with a billboard to create a customized shoe, which they could then purchase online through a secure link sent via text message.
"You can't TiVo outdoor. It's part of the environment, part of the landscape," says Stephen Freitas, chief marketing officer of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. "The concept [for outdoor ads] is simple: engage consumers." Freitas believes that "tie-ins between gaming and billboards will be the future."
With the addition of Bluetooth technology to outdoor ads, the medium is resonating with and engaging consumers more than ever. "To be an early adopter, you need to have deep pockets," Freitas says. "It's only a matter of time before local advertisers will jump on this."
You read correctly. Outdoor technobabble between your cell phone and a billboard won't be limited to Times Square and large cities. Look for billboards, wallscapes, and other outdoor media enabled with Bluetooth technology to dominate the outdoor scene and deliver any manner of nonlinear ads, promotions, announcements, quizzes, and games.
"Out-of-home will be the Bluetooth medium of the future," Freitas predicts.
But just because technology is making its way into the outdoor medium doesn't mean that low-tech outdoor campaigns can't still stand out from the pack. Take a campaign for Nissan's Maxima, for example. Street-level billboards around the car were created to give the illusion that they were burning due to the vehicle's heat. The billboard also "burned" surrounding street fixtures and bicycles.
Mark Stewart, managing director at OMD, also sees nonlinear potential in the outdoor medium. "Mainline media is changing. Outdoor is a hot category. The convergence between the outdoor and digital landscape is happening," Stewart explains, adding, "The medium is becoming more vital, through the use of Bluetooth technology, low-band radio broadcasting, high-resolution audio available via cell phone, or some other device. All of this can be scalable to a local level."
For the future of outdoor, look no further than ad agency Filter Worldwide. The agency invented something called BlueCasting, a process that can deliver various forms of content to mobile phones. The agency has launched campaigns in London using BlueCasting technology in outdoor venues to deliver downloadable content to passersby.
A recent campaign supported the launch of Coldplay's third album, "X&Y." Passersby were e-mailed an invitation to receive Coldplay video clips, soundbites, and interviews. More than 17 percent of the estimated 87,000 phones that received the e-mail downloaded the content.
Watch for more kiosks, Jumbotron TV screens, and sophisticated digital billboards to beam content to mobile phones and other portable devices in the U.S. in the near future. We may not yet live like "The Jetsons," but the scenario portrayed in "Minority Report" is no futuristic phenomenon: It's right around the corner, along with my digitized coupon for a free cup of coffee.