Cannes Perspectives: A Landscape of Possibilities

Technological advances offer a wealth of opportunities for OOH but a strong strategy will always be key to success

It is widely accepted that the media world we now inhabit is changing at an ever-increasing pace – none more so than the out-of-home medium.

OOH Strategy: Navigating Tech’s Opportunities for Success

The levels of investment by landlords, estate owners and media owners is unprecedented and – as technological advances, costs, connectivity and smartphone capabilities improve – the opportunities across out-of-home continue to exceed the imagination of much of our industry.

When I started in the business in the early 80s at BMP, there was a campaign for London Weekend Television that I remember vividly.

Every Monday, when I travelled in on the regular commute to Paddington, there was a new poster – each one in the same highly visible location and usually involving some humorous or intriguing take on the forthcoming weekend’s star offering.

I saw several of them over time, increasingly amazed that they changed so quickly and were always topical and entertaining.

The campaign, by Gold Greenlees Trott, was brought to the streets by Eric Newnham, now the chief executive of Talon. Every Monday morning at 6am, Newnham took Mike Gold on a site tour across London to make sure that all was in order.

While this is a very old campaign, it is incredibly instructive of the principles that we need to consider in the new world of out-of-home if we are to continue to deliver successful campaigns.

First, location and audience behaviour was all. Individual sites were hand-picked to ensure that the key audience – in this case, advertising agencies – would see the campaign regularly. To us, it became both dominant and frequent, and appeared to be a “big” public campaign that generated conversations.

Second, based on Gold’s observation that people would look out for new news on specific poster sites, LWT adopted the same principle – it brilliantly broke with poster convention and changed the copy every week. In this way, dominance and frequency were compounded by novelty and difference.

Third, there was a big idea; take a topical subject or story and feature it in the advertising – a bit like Private Eye. This provided the emotional, relevant pull – not just a rational sell – that was common in trade press advertising at the time.

Dominant. Frequent. Different. Relevant. These are the four things that out-of-home does so well and which, according to all of the academic research from cognitive psychology to communications theory, are at the heart of attention, emotional engagement and memory encoding.

With the advent of digital, we are now able to deliver turbocharged versions of LWT’s classic campaign. We have far more data from a range of sources to help us understand the behaviours of highly specific audiences at, and between, individual locations.

And we can deliver contextually relevant content (temporal, locational, environmental and behavioural) to thousands of sites in seconds – that is why our Google Outside campaign is so acclaimed.

As Dave Trott still frequently points out, most of the ideas for the LWT campaign came from the media department; and, for me, it is this element that we need to resurrect. At a time of such incredible dynamism and complexity in the medium, the collaboration between creative and media could not be more important. And yet it seems more distant than ever.

At Talon, we have created a dedicated resource to address this issue and are actively exploring “The Art Of The Possible” with our creative colleagues – as we believe content for context will be one of the biggest drivers of effectiveness as digital expands.

The oldest medium in the world has leapt to be in the vanguard of the new, with more people doing more things across out-of-home than ever before. We just need to ensure the key principles that make great campaigns survive in a landscape of extraordinary possibilities.

By Andy Tilley, chief strategy officer and creative partner

This article first appeared on Brand Republic 26/06/2015