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‘DOOH in Outdoor Advertising is on the ascendancy’

By Rajiv Raghunath - September 05, 2022

Tim Bleakley, CEO, Ocean Outdoor talks about DOOH prospects in the context of the attention economy and it's impact in outdoor advertising. Edited excerpts of the interview with Rajiv Raghunath.

Tim Bleakley, CEO, Ocean Outdoor The boom in digital content has created an attention economy where brands of all hues are competing hard to grab the attention of consumers. Media channels are likewise looking to carve out their share of the attention economy. Would you reckon that OOH/DOOH is poised to get a fair share of this economy, and how?

A lot of businesses that derive income from people spending time on screens like Apple, Netflix, Google, and Facebook have had an exaggerated uptick in the length of time that people were spending on screens because of the pandemic.

Now, as the world opens up again, people aren't going to be glued to their screens in the same way, and those companies are going to get back to the more normal flatline, evidenced by the results earlier this year of Netflix, whose subscriber levels have gone down for the first time.  

So, it stands to reason that subscriptions rocketed during the pandemic when people had less things to do. And, therefore the opposite is true now. That's the first thing.

The second aspect is about the way people view DOOH media. A recent WPP study has deemed DOOH as an entertainment channel based on consumer based data source. DOOH was ranked alongside television in terms of entertainment. I think that's interesting.

Now, you've got to ask yourself, why would DOOH score really high for entertainment post-pandemic, as part of being Outdoor advertising how is it suitable to achieve wider auduance? The reason is, this media is being used and shared across multiple platforms, and people are consuming DOOH physically, and in the virtual space.

There's a tendency for people to share and distribute across all of the digital platforms. Therefore, we are getting a share of that attention based economy in the virtual space.

Our channel is becoming more entertaining. It's no longer a static singular channel. It's a channel where advertisers create a platform and share that on social and it gets amplified.

Also, consumers find the DOOH channel more entertaining, because they're now used to seeing the IMAX, Times Square, Westfield, Piccadilly Lights, and share those on screens across the world.

It has been said that consumer attention is more oriented to interesting, unpredictable information in our environment and they tend to pass over normal, predictable parts. From that standpoint, how would OOH/DOOH media earn a fair share of consumer attention. Is the content of advertising the answer?

I think our media will continue to play a stronger role from the content perspective, and the content comes in many forms. Advertisers are increasingly recognising that you can do amazing things using DOOH. For instance, on a big screen you're able to create the illusion of the brand coming out to reach the people. That is a phenomenal, powerful tool for marketers. Likewise, DeepScreen creates an amazing impact in the physical space which also gets shared virtually. So that's one form of content -- advertiser generated content.

The second form of content are those that get distributed on other platforms.

The third form comprises valuable public messaging that is relevant to consumers.

And, then there are, event based content. Ocean is the first company to sign a deal with both the Olympic Association and the Paralympic Association in the UK to support the Olympic causes. And of course, we will be broadcasting content across our screens and also how it can be beneficial to outdoor advertising for small business. 

In this attention economy, are audience metrics that much more complex?

Well, I think the first thing to say is, there's a huge amount of data in the world now. The second is, which data is valuable and relevant to you and to your customers. And, of course, there are many out there who have different sources of data that are attached to our media also in outdoor advertising and it's importance.

So, I think the most important thing is, your base level data has to be very robust. And you need a trading metric that is robust too. In the UK, we have ROUTE.

You would need to supplement that with other forms of data, from mobile apps, contextual advertising, mobile telephony, WiFi networks, etc.

We're in the process of launching Columbus in the Dutch market, with a company called Precisely. That's based on real, micro data and behavioural points over a period of time.

The third thing is, how do you measure engagement. And how do you measure wider influence that you really can have on people's behaviours, particularly around brand impact, which is much harder to measure.

Would it be safe to say that digital media, which is actually in many ways seen as competition for DOOH, is actually complementing DOOH’s growth in the context of the attention economy? And whether that would help DOOH or the OOH industry as a whole to get a larger share of the ad pie?

That's a $64 billion question, isn't it?

There is always a lag between the budget deployment and behavioural shifts.

There is no doubt that most brands and advertisers in major markets all over the world are overweight on linear TV. Besides, there is hyper-inflation. A large budget that would have bought you a decent TV campaign five years ago, currently that doesn't go very far. So my point is, not that we should be saying don't use linear television. But the point is, if you think about our medium and what it can do, the fact that we can still reach those younger audiences at mass, and it's cost effective, actually can supplement your TV campaign.

While TV is very strong for branding, DOOH is certainly on par, according to the Group M study, in terms of engagement and entertainment.

When it comes to the digital economy, they don't have the brand impact. It's very difficult to build a brand in a frequency based action orientated media. So they're super powerful in a one dimensional way. And of course, there are other issues such as brand safety, etc.

But again, we're not saying to people don't use digital. Instead, we are saying, our brand platform is communicated across those channels, so use our brand platform to supplement and improve the effectiveness of your call to action.

I genuinely do believe that we as Outdoor advertisers have risen up the pecking order post the pandemic.

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