Why Is So Much DOOH So 'Un-Digital'?

There is a very interesting read in Mediatel today from the head of media at the Nationwide Building Society. It raised a lot of the issues around outdoor that rarely get aired.

It caught my eye because it talked about outdoor in Swindon, a town I know very well, pointing out how outdoor sites are disappearing and aren't being replaced by big digital screens.

Digital outdoor just doesn't seem to be making it out of London, or at least making it out of the UK's biggest cites.

There is probably not a single soul who would disagree with this. Once you leave behind the huge outdoor screens on the A40 leaving London, it is a little like ducking back into Victorian England.

However, for me, there is another huge issue to raise about digital outdoor, and I speak as a massive fan of the channel. Why on earth is digital outdoor not more digital?

If you look at most digital screens you would be forgiven for not realising they are capable of movement. If you're wondering what I mean, just catch a tube in central London.

As you descend and then ascend again, the screens on the escalators are identical to the static posters they have replaced. The images change, but they are still so static. The same pictures of what's on the theatre, television, the cinema or which celeb has just released a book are all still there.

Whenever I talk to people in DOOH they are so enthused by what digital outdoor can offer. We've all had the conversation where the warm weather prompts programmatic trading to put ice cream or sun cream ads on the screen. I was also recently talking to executives about how flight arrival times can be built into outdoor so a plane's passengers from one destination can be prompted to buy one product in the airport and those arriving from a different region might be pointed to another.

At the moment, I have to be honest -- I don't think the person in the street, or even the airport, is seeing a lot of this. It's just the usual static images, only they change every few seconds. 

The only time I remember seeing moving images was at an airport, and the models on the screen moved around as they showed off a new outfit. Other than that, I think we would all have to agree that digital outdoor is rather un-digital beyond how it is traded.

There are some obvious honourable exceptions, such as the car brand that used number-plate recognition to detect car makes and then flag up to the owner the better performance or no congestion charge status achievable if they went for brand x next time.

There was the BA campaign that let people know where the planes overhead were flying to, or where the ha'd come from. These were short-term campaigns that caught the eye before being replaced, no doubt, by more static images on screen.

This leaves me wondering why digital screens don't do more to point people to the nearest store where they can buy the product on the screen. Why don't they get used to run flash sales? Why isn't there a more clever use of data, as with the BA campaign?

From what I gather, programmatic is now rolling out, so we might see more innovation. Let's hope so -- because right now, instead of video, we're just being served freeze-frame images. Instead of being delivered imaginative creative driven by the weather or stock levels at a nearby store, we've got what was planned to run regardless of any external factors.

Outdoor has got us all excited about digital, but it's fast becoming time to deliver and turn talk into action. 

Next story loading loading..