The Connect platform, which should be operational by June of this year, will equip 75,000 outdoor advertising sites in pedestrian areas around the world with near field
communication, QR codes and (in Latin America) SMS capabilities.
Altogether, the network will reach 175 million consumers per month in 23 countries around the world. According to Clear Channel, this will be the largest combined out-of-home and mobile ad platform in the world.
The NFC and QR code tags will appear on ad displays that are readily accessible to pedestrians, including signage incorporated into street furniture, shopping malls, airports, and point-of-sale. The NFC and QR codes will be permanently attached to static or digital signage, while in Latin America, the SMS option will appear in the outdoor ads themselves.
Advertisers can use the mobile interactivity to provide useful information, including maps, search and other location-relevant content; drive transactions with discounts and coupons; build engagement with entertainment content including games, video, photos, and apps; and encourage sharing via social media and texting.
On the measurement front, advertisers will be able to capture data including date, time, location, conversion rates, and device type, which should in turn allow them to optimize campaigns and boost ROI.
CCO president and chief operating officer Suzanne Grimes noted that Connect should make mobile integration easier for ad clients by eliminating some of the technical demands. “With Connect, we offer advertisers easier and more nimble access to mobile-interactive campaigns as they no longer need to spend time creating NFC tags or QR codes. Via our preinstalled tags, we seamlessly direct consumers to advertisers’ mobile optimized content.”
The Connect platform has already launched in the UK, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands and Singapore. Additional rollouts, including the U.S., are scheduled to be complete by the end of the second quarter.
It's not surprising that publishers (which is what Clear Channel is in this case) are looking for new ways to engage mobile consumers. Mobile isn't like other channels, which are tied to a time or a place. Mobile can connect every channel because it is available at any time and in every place. The industry is just beginning to recognize the rich role mobile can play in connecting with consumers across channels. While a lot of work has been done to identify and connect with consumers across channels, less has been done to give consumers the opportunity to connect with content across channels. What Clear Channel is doing is allowing consumers to raise their hands to say "I am interested in what you have to say." That is a much more powerful signal for an advertisers – especially if it can be measured and attributed to a specific ad – than many approaches to targeting. Out-of-home isn't the only channel that is using mobile to connect with consumers. Mobile app and game developers are incorporating SMS into TV ads to lead viewers straight to a download page (you can read about it here: http://bit.ly/1dr8IkB). One thing that is curious about Clear Channel's approach is that they are limiting SMS to Latin America. It will be interesting to see how the different approaches – SMS, NFC and QR – perform in each of the various markets.