Out-of-home and the return of the special build

Like vinyl records and crop tops, are out-of-home customisations having a resurgence? Talon’s Catherine Knight explores

The Resurgence of Traditional Special Builds in OOH

Before the rise of digital OOH, clients and agencies looked to customisations and special builds on traditional posters as a way to add some sparkle, magic and stature to an OOH broadcast campaign. In the noughties, building a huge 2D cut out of your movie superhero or a 3D replica of your product and having it exploding from the face of a large format roadside panel was exciting. It was different and it achieved standout; the icing on the cake (quite literally in some circumstances) and the cutting edge of OOH campaigns. The format can still impress but recently trends and technologies have moved us on to a world of greater digital interaction, one-off stunts, personal experience and a desire for video content.

As a result, it’s fair to say for the last few years there has been less of an appetite for more traditional special build projects. Those who follow fashion might draw parallels with recently favoured super skinny jeans or the once ubiquitous ’cause’ wristbands. However, times may be changing. Since Talon’s Innovations division was formed in late-2013, we’ve experienced a near-continuous hunger from our clients towards digital-based interaction and one-off stunt executions. As a result we’ve been lucky enough to work on some brilliant and award winning campaigns, from the Pepsi Max Unbelievable bus shelter to PS4’s takeover of the Oxo Tower and Walkers’ Tweet to Eat 6 sheet bus shelters. Whilst these projects have been exciting and innovative for us to develop with our clients, agencies and partners, they have been at the expense of more traditional (humble, perhaps) special builds.

However, the tide may be turning. Since Q4 last year there seems to have been a marked increase in creativity and industry-wide focus on using customisations to elevate and enhance a media plan. From the spectacular SSE lighting builds we delivered last year to the Coke ‘snowcases’, it seems that the resurgence is being felt everywhere. For us, the last few months have featured a number of exciting campaigns. One of the two sites we built for PA Consulting is still live, on which 2D replicas of the brand’s jetpack man have been seen flying off the face of billboards, with the copy ‘Floating Ideas’ and ‘It is rocket science!’ Indeed.

Our Heinz Mayonnaise 3D builds were enormous replicas of the new (Seriously Good) jars, which are the largest 3D builds JCDecaux and some of our other media owner partners have ever carried on their sites. Our huge 3D suspended builds of “Red” from the Angry Birds Movie are still in Westfield London and Bluewater. And our latest executions show four-metre tall Nathan Drakes grapple-hooking across the UK to promote the launch of PS4’s Unchartered 4.

The briefs keep coming. According to our industry’s audience measurement system, Route, OOH reaches 98% of all adults on a weekly basis. We know that OOH can’t be ignored, muted, turned off and skipped over unlike some other channels. So in a landscape where huge numbers of people are seeing and noticing a lot of high impact, often visually stunning brand messaging what better way is there to elevate your message than by making it bigger, bolder and more striking than all the others. A kind of back to basics creative approach that we as an industry have rediscovered.

Ocean Outdoor’s Neuroscience study found that to get results OOH advertising needs to capture attention and then engage our emotions with the most ‘spectacular’ locations impacting the level of emotional response. So it seems obvious that big, bold and spectacular special builds are definitely the way to make sure your audience pay attention, remember your brand message and drive a positive emotional response to what you want to say.

Special builds are proving a naturally creative and highly visible means of amplifying a classic OOH campaign, bringing out the visual side of OOH. Whilst there is still definitely a mass movement towards digitisation, we are delighted to see a resurgence of traditional special builds in OOH. And unlike our views on the return of crop tops, we hope they are here to stay.

This article first appeared on Mediatel on 25/05/2016.