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The future of outdoor is digital

The unprecedented expansion of the outdoor sector in recent years has seen an influx of new suppliers and innovative approaches to brand messaging and out-of-home communications, writes Brian Boakes, director of strategic marketing at EnQii.

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Industry experts are predicting that 2008 will see the long-forecast consolidation of the sector, with digital technology becoming increasingly important to the growth of the industry.

While marketers and brand owners have moved on from viewing digital out-of-home technology simply as animated billboards, in many cases awareness of the full potential of digital signage remains low.

Communicating a brand message through the digital medium offers the flexibility of rapid content alignment for changing audiences. This not only ensures that the message is consistently relevant and engaging, but also means that content can be adapted and changed within a short time frame.

Digital also allows the integration of interactive elements such as Bluetooth or SMS mobile, which actively extends the brand/consumer relationship far beyond the initial screen exposure and enable direct measurement of consumer response.

As digital networks can also align content across multiple platforms and locations, the medium allows media owners to communicate and maintain a consistent message on a global scale.

With the rise of digital, the sector is also moving to redefine traditional audience segregation.

Rather than seeing audiences as part of demographic groups or day parts, viewing them in a series of communities means that content can be specifically aligned to situation and frame of mind. In many cases this involves communicating with a mass audience, so digital content needs to be both engaging and relevant in order to catch their attention, interrupt their routine, and initiate a call to action.

Digital currently represents a comparatively small section of the outdoor market, which is still heavily dominated by traditional poster advertising.

However, due to its short campaign lead time and adaptable and targeted content, in the future the digital medium represents outdoor's strongest chance to target below-the-line advertising spend previously dominated by other media channels.

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