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‘Let’s think about what OOH could be, not how it was’

By N Jayalakshmi - June 17, 2021

The opportunity now is to start rethinking about what OOH could mean – beautiful stories, told simply, in a compelling way, says Laura Jordan Bambach, President and Chief Creative Officer, UK, Grey in an exclusive interaction with N Jayalakshmi. As Laura points out, now is perhaps the best time to reboot and infuse the OOH medium with the much needed creativity. This means integrating the medium and the message with the environment in which you engage with the consumer.

Laura Jordan Bambach, President and Chief Creative Officer, UK, GreyHow do you see the mood post 2nd wave of the pandemic impacting storytelling and audience engagement as far as OOH as a medium is concerned?

I think COVID has, in fact, given us an opportunity. Previously, I think - as with much other advertising media - we've often used OOH for the wrong things. The most important thing to remember about OOH is that it’s in someone’s environment – somewhere an individual lives, works, eats or travels. Relevance is key, as is giving back to those environments rather than just plastering everything with direct response-style activity or sales-led communications. During the pandemic, we had a lot of community groups, arts groups and charities - people trying to make a difference - able to put messages up there, and so, in a strange way, I think the quality of OOH in terms of what it did for the natural context and environment felt a lot more sensitive and appropriate. It didn’t feel ‘in your face’; rather that it was there to support you. I’d like to see more of that type of storytelling and audience engagement from now on. Let’s not just go back to how OOH was. Let's think about what it could be.

Any important takeaways from 2020 as far as brand communication and consumer engagement are concerned?

It was wonderful to see OOH used in a way that was genuinely giving back to the community for the first time in a long time. Across India, for instance, there is some really great OOH and mural work around. Often it holds a public safety message. It is beautiful to see these spaces used effectively.

How would you define creativity and innovation in OOH, especially given that the medium is evolving in terms of formats and DOOH is becoming an integral part of the OOH space?

The evolution of the OOH space allows us to do so much more. I love traditional OOH, but digital can enable us to target by time of day and weather, for instance. There’s a bunch of data we can use to make the advertising more relevant. This may also allow smaller businesses and charities – the kinds of businesses that we saw using these OOH spaces during the pandemic - to have a role - because you're not having to pay for the physical printing of work. For many charities I worked with, this was what was holding them back. So DOOH is really exciting for this reason, too. Then you’ve got animation, facial recognition – there’s so much more we can do. Despite all the great work being done in traditional OOH, I think digital is the future and the most interesting space. I guess the only issue is the energy consumption.

What do you think can be done on the creative front in terms of storytelling, audience engagement and accountability to make sure OOH is on top of the recall as an advertising medium for brands?   
Too often, I think it’s being used the wrong way, with no thought or care as to the environment it’s in and the people it speaks to. There hasn't been an awful lot of storytelling or engagement, either. The focus has been on sales messages. I think the opportunity now is to start rethinking about what OOH could mean – beautiful stories, told simply, in a compelling way. Take the exceptional Dracula work for the BBC. This is work that’s been done with creativity. What's been missing in a lot of OOH is actually that creativity.


Typically in your observation, what are the most critical last mile challenges when it comes to executing OOH innovations? How do you think the whole eco-system can work together to ensure smooth last mile delivery?

What I have noticed getting in the way, more often than not, is that much of the innovation is incredibly expensive to execute. With DOOH there is a cost implication for facial recognition, time of day targeting, and so on. Often clients and media agencies are not willing to pay, so I’ve worked on a couple of competition entries which have been brilliant, because you get access to all of the technology that's available in these really sophisticated units. For most brands, that money isn't there to be able to make those innovations come to life.


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