Replacing Ink With Pixels Does Not Make Outdoor Digital -- Customer Focus Will

Digital out-of-home (DOOH) has always been a bit of a damp squib as far as I'm concerned. I've been at the conference displays when people marvelled at a screen replacing a poster and I've been wooed with talk about campaigns being empowered to change tack according to market conditions and insight from real-time data.

This has happened over several years, and do you know what just about every shopper gets every time they pass a DOOH installation? A picture made up of pixels rather than dots of ink. That's just about it. Oh, the picture changes every now and then, but other than that, that's about it. Pictures can now change every few seconds rather than every few weeks -- how exciting is that!

Apply digital's number one question -- what does this do for the consumer -- and the channel is found seriously wanting. Have you ever looked at a poster and wished it were made of pixels that revolved to another advert that is pretty sharpish? No, thought not. 

So, Clear Channel and Mediacom working on a new "real time" system stands out as something that is likely to be of interest. As long as there's something in it for the customer, of course. The likelihood is it will offer a way for brands, or more likely their agencies, to bid for space at different times of the day and then do some number crunching before deciding their next move. Behind the scenes there will be some change -- and it will be heralded as real time and digital.

Here are a few questions, though, that I'd love to ask the DOOH industry -- and they all revolve around the central issue of what's in it for the customer with the add-on that if you're not doing anything new for the customer, are you surprised you're the only part of digital advertising that is flatlining right now?

So, in more detail. When was the last time a retailer was empowered to switch adverts because the perfume or football kits they are advertising are out of stock and so the space is best used promoting something they actually have to offer? When was the last time you allowed or empowered dynamic pricing? You never know, retailers might want to knock a couple of pounds off an item that is sticking to the shelves or is soon to be replaced or get people through the cafe door after the breakfast or lunch rush with a free biscuit offer.

For shoppers, when was the last time a screen told them about a great deal they could only get today with an arrow pointing them to the participating store? When was the last time you empowered a brand to share a great customer experience with a shopper -- maybe an Instagram picture of that little black dress being tried on or the tweet about a cake they've just made with a new blender?

The all-encompassing question: When did you harness the interconnectivity of digital to give consumers a better experience?

Systems for planning and buying that are more clever than the last are one thing; being digital and appealing to the people you're hoping will engage with adverts is something altogether different.

So, my opinion remains that DOOH is only digital because it uses pixels, and that doesn't actually make it digital.

Until I see a digital advert on a tube escalator that gives me a one-day-only offer on a camera, or perhaps directions to the nearest umbrella and coat retailer because it's raining at street level or maybe even a seating plan for a theatre highlighting a special offer on returned tickets for tonight's performance, that's where my opinion remains.

Pixels do not equate to digital. Bringing digital channels together to focus on the customer -- that's digital.

Next story loading loading..