Out-Of-Home Is Far From Out Of Sight

It may have been the season of goodwill to all men, but that hasn’t stopped the media from getting a good all-around kicking from marketers, and not without good reason.

First, we had viewability and whether scrolling past an autoplay on social media counted as viewed. Facebook would have wished that was the peak of its worries. The fake news debacle rose up and threatened to wobble its foundations once more. There’s no time for traditional media to snigger up its sleeve, however. Print ads continue to struggle in the minds of media buyers as the digital generation of marketers become increasingly "printist."

It takes snappy creative and some buyers who are really on the ball to jolt print advertising back into the public consciousness. We’re still applauding the wag who put a quarter-page "Brad is single" Norwegian Airlines ad for one-way flights to LA in papers back in September 2016.

Of course bias -- or perhaps more generously preference -- has never been absent in the media universe. From the pally deals struck during a three-martini lunch in the '50s to today’s interwoven programmatic buying networks, the media smorgasbord has often been chosen as much by what the agencies like doing as what their clients should be doing. And worse still, blinded by the data pouring out of online and mobile, measurability has been muddled with performance. Once the metrics started having a bit of the "Emperor’s New Clothes" about them, marketers suddenly realised they were getting an awful lot of the former and next to none of the latter.

One of the biggest opportunities that marketers have been missing while they strain their brains about digital metrics and measurability is in out-of-home. Rising above all this unseemly tussle, OOH has been steadily innovating and has been increasingly successful. And in a market mesmerised by measurability it has managed that too -- just not at the expense of performance.

OOH has been quick to digitise, apply data and worked hard to capitalise on the creative elements it offers, with campaigns like the Ghostbusters work at Waterloo ensuring that it continues to attract attention from advertisers.

Piccadilly Circus -- the out-of-home billboard sine qua non -- is about to get its latest revamp to become a single, ultra high-definition screen. Advertising on the streets of W1 has better entertainment quality than most TVs, computers, laptops, tablets and mobile devices combined. Other digital OOH real estate will no doubt follow suit. Brands should be stepping up to the creative challenge -- it would be rude not to.

As was ever the case, one of the best examples of nailing creative and channel combined came from an organisation whose precise aim was to subvert the whole advertising process. #Catsnotads grabbed the zeitgeist for all things moggy on the Internet -- and put it on Tube walls. Giant pictures of cats adorned a London Tube station’s walls as well as blanketing the exit barriers (charmingly renamed the catflaps).

CATS stands for Citizens Advertising Takeover Service and it raised GBP23,000 from 700 donors on Kickstarter to run its out-of-home campaign. The campaign’s founder, James Turner, stated his aim in The Guardian: “We want to inspire people to think differently about the world and realise they have the power to change it.”

OOH shouldn’t exist in a bubble, but it has proven time and again that if it is ignored, there’s a vital something missing from campaign strategy. Whether it’s a sense of fun, spectacle, creativity or timeliness, OOH delivers where other channels cannot. #Catsnotads was successful because it got people talking (word of mouth). It was shared on social media. It reached news coverage (public relations) and most importantly, it squeezed every drop of value out of its budget and maxed out its performance potential.

While subversion was the name of the game, Turner stated that he wasn’t against advertising -- just the idea that he wanted brands to be mindful of the power they had.

In choosing out-of-home to demonstrate that power, I think Turner was also making a strong statement about just where brands should be wielding it. 

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