Digital out-of-home will ‘weave its way into the fabric of daily life’ – says Rapport CEO Mike Cooper

Unlike the ‘declining’ mediums of digital, social and mobile – digital out-of-home is on the rise and, indeed, it even has the potential to elevate people's daily lives, says Rapport Worldwide president and CEO Mike Cooper – ahead of his presentation on the topic at the Mumbrella360 Asia conference this November (5-7)

Will advances in data and technology make out-of-home more relevant? I seem to be asked this question on a regular basis. 

Whenever I’m asked it or if I’m asked to speak, or pen an article around the future of the OOH industry, I wonder if those who encounter my musings might suggest I come across a touch defensive? I suspect I do; as I have always felt OOH is relevant. I would not have stuck around in this gig, if I didn’t. 

The incredible potential is fast becoming an incredible reality. However, developments in data and tech haven’t come along to save OOH. They are merely serving to power what was already a vital and highly-relevant client and consumer offering. As a medium it has always, and will always, engage with the general public in a uniquely physical and attention-grabbing manner – in a way that no other media can. 

While digital, social and mobile continue to be an important part of any brand’s marketing plan, the reality is that their effectiveness is on the decline. More than a quarter of the population are using ad-blocking technology on their smartphones, not to mention fraud and other challenges that go along with those channels. 

In fact, digitally-native brands are increasingly investing their marketing dollars in OOH and digital OOH. According to a report by the Out of Home Advertising Association of America, nearly a quarter of the top 100 OOH advertisers are major tech brands – including the likes of Amazon, Google and Apple. The MAGNA global OOH report predicts that out-of-home advertising will continue its rapid growth from a $36 billion industry coming into 2019, to become a $40 billion dollar industry by 2023. 

So OOH already has a wonderful relationship with society (when creatively done right). The innovation in data and tech will open the doors for brands to build a dialogue in real-time. Meaning it will allow people to meet, get to know, spend time and interact with OOH advertisers that are relevant to them (not personally, that’s creepy, but more on that later). 

There is great risk, yet great reward, in the opportunity that lies ahead. As we all get excited about what technology will allow us to do, we must avoid losing track of what we should do: strategically, creatively and morally.

Data of all kinds – whether GPS, mobile or POS – enables us to very accurately target any given audience. Where your phone sits for eight hours at night is likely to be where you live; where it rests during the day is likely your workplace; and GPS data between the two is your travel pattern. 

Then let’s look at the apps people have, their browsing history, what interests them, what they buy? Consolidating people’s data (and it is their data) with millions of others, we are able to build a very granular picture of audience groups (anonymised and aggregated, of course). From here, it’s not a big jump to imagine artificial intelligence or machine learning starting to predict people’s travel behaviour – and serve them the digital OOH ads of products they want, before they even know they want them. But they do want it, right, because the algorithm said so?

I am not belittling these advancements. They are crucially important to help brands build a dynamic customer journey, to ensure they are reaching the right people, in the right mindset. And so that we are optimising their dollars, yen, euros, rupees or pounds. However, just “reaching” people is not enough. If that’s all we do, then we’ve not done our job. 

We are not a ‘physical website’, nor are we ‘long tail media’. No, OOH media is a part of the fabric of urban life. Picture any subway system on earth (with the exception of Singapore, which is cleaner than my house). If OOH advertising was removed, it would leave a white tiled cell with a healthy wildlife. 

In fact, OOH enhances that environment for people. Times Square, Piccadilly Circus, Dotonbori Square; millions of tourists flock from around the world to take photographs of the amazing creative work on display. What other medium can claim to be a global tourist trap?

This will be our coming, this environmental benefit will explode. I’m not just referring to the aesthetic benefit to the landscape, which I concede is often debatable and should be worked on; but also the benefit to the actual environment itself. Take the ‘air purifying billboard’ for example. 

Following the lead of airports like Terminal 5 at Heathrow, that was architecturally designed with OOH advertising in mind, the ‘smart cities’ of the future will embrace the OOH medium at concept to ensure that, while offering brands the opportunity to engage and generate revenue for the cities, they will also enhance, inform and protect daily life.

I am not leaving the all-important clients and brands to the end for any other reason than to stress that it is the existential benefits and attributes of OOH that should keep brands flocking to the medium. The strategic capabilities to use OOH, to provide an entire journey through the consumer experience, to create or distribute viral content, to build a broadcast or optimised audience. And to have a lifestyle interaction or an actual interaction with a view to giving a reward.

It is this versatility that is unique to the medium’s proposition. The prospect of relevantly weaving its way into the fabric of evolving daily life, in a physical and rewarding way, is the real beauty – and the future of OOH. As it is the common denominator between all audience segments, demographics, communities, societies and populations. So to conclude, ‘relevance’ is assured. For the medium is exactly where you are.

Cooper sees a bright future for digital OOH

Mike Cooper is global president and chief executive officer of Rapport Worldwide, an IPG Mediabrands agency, and is based in New York – he will be speaking at the Mumbrella360 Asia conference in Singapore (Marina Bay Sands) this November (5-7) in a session titled ‘Digital Out-of-Home Explained: The unblockable Ad Format’


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