Can outdoor take advantage of digital’s disarray?

by Nigel Hollis

The Outdoor Advertising Association of America may be hitting back against the shortcomings of digital advertising, but maybe it needs to play to its strengths and get advertisers to recognize the medium for its inherent advantages not try to transcend them.

P&G’s Chief Brand Office Marc Pritchard does not want to waste time and money on digital’s “crappy media supply chain” and took the industry to task for ad viewability and fraud in a speech at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Annual Leadership Meeting. A week later and the Outdoor Advertising Association of America put up six billboards near P&G headquarters in Cincinnati stating: “Hey Marc, This ad is real.”

The power of outdoor to reach an audience is undeniable. Kantar Millward Brown’s CrossMedia studies routinely find that outdoor has good reach. Across a large range of studies conducted across Europe for a variety of advertisers, we see that point of sale and outdoor advertising achieve similar reach, second only to TV and typically higher than digital formats like display, Facebook or video.

We have also seen outdoor act as the springboard medium when TV is not used and the latest AdReaction findings confirm that younger audiences are more positive to outdoor than most digital formats. However, our findings are ambivalent when it comes to the impact of outdoor on salience and motivation compared to other media. While outdoor advertising may be 100 percent real and viewable those qualities alone do not guarantee effectiveness. In this regard, outdoor may share a problem with digital; not enough time and effort is put into creating truly effective and engaging content that works within the context of the medium.

While a few high impact campaigns stand out for their creativity (check out some of these great examples) they remain the exception not the rule. And besides, many of these campaigns seem to try to transcend the limitations of the outdoor medium rather than work within them. In doing so they may create a compelling and engaging experience for the few, but fail to take advantage of the medium’s ability to reach a wide audience.

Take, for example, Reebock’s ZPump 2.0 Speed Cam, created by Animal in Sweden, which uses realtime object recognition and motion detection to calculate a runner’s speed. It may be a technical tour de force, but it is hardly scalable and the buzz created is hardly going to justify the time and cost involved in the ad’s creation. The same would be true of many of the 40 must-see examples of billboard advertising cited by Creative Bloq, chances are the vast majority of these ads are not going to be seen by the brand’s target audience.

By targeting Marc Pritchard with ads the Outdoor Advertising Association of America was clearly demonstrating one of outdoor’s strengths, the ability to target people in specific locations, but perhaps it would also do well to play up its ability to reach a wide audience, and encourage advertisers to work within the limitations of a static display not try to transcend it. But what do you think? Please share your thoughts.


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