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The outdoor opportunity moving into 2014

The outdoor industry, for many decades a business steeped in paper and paste, has experienced unprecedented change in recent years and enters 2014 with a world of opportunities, says Eric Newnham, Talon's chief executive.

Eric Newnham: chief executive of Talon

Eric Newnham: chief executive of Talon

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No one has ever denied that Out of Home is one of the most impactful forms of advertising but until recently, it would have been very hard to argue that it was, in any way, nimble. How times have changed.

The advent of digital screens has probably had the biggest impact on Outdoor, of all advertising options. Last year saw 22% of OOH spend directed to digital campaigns and, as inventory owners increase their investment, this per cent is set to increase exponentially with some forecasts putting spend at 50% by 2025.

I suspect that digital OOH has probably matured into what it is likely to be for the foreseeable future. What the sector needs now is for brands and media partners to fully understand its scope and flexibility, embrace it and deliver some truly impactful work.

At Talon, we are proud to partner some enlightened associates including Grand Visual and Curb and, in our first year, have delivered several exceptionally impressive campaigns for brands such as Google, Camelot and PS4.

Advertising content and beyond

What made some of these campaigns ground-breaking, especially the Google execution that served hundreds of different creatives by location and time of day, was that consumers saw the content as just that, not traditional advertising.

Today’s punter is adept at screening out the unimportant, but digital OOH allows us to be clever in our thinking and for creative and media to be more aligned – just one example of this is how OOH can be integrated fully in experiential work and the social media conversation.

Content will play a crucial role in defining the appeal of digital OOH, with some strong initiatives emerging already via CBS Outdoor, JCDecaux and MediaCo in Manchester. Sites have the potential to become important content providers that reach beyond the advertising sector, for example, and at Talon we are already in discussions with PR agencies about using digital OOH to break news to targeted consumers in places like the City.

Ads on the move: the impact of mobile

The impact of mobile on the media and society has been impossible to ignore. Both mobile and OOH are about location and real-time, and their future is firmly linked. Currently we are only scratching the surface but, to take the retail environment as an example, by working collaboratively we present advertisers with the opportunity to engage shoppers through digital screens, which is game-changing for all concerned.

So far the common factor in digital OOH is that all brands involved are undeniably big. Whilst this has resulted in great campaigns, as a sector we need to demonstrate to smaller brands or ones not yet engaged with Outdoor that our medium can deliver great results for them too.

Digital presents us with hugely increased flexibility, so instead of having a poster in place for two weeks, now clients can take space for as little as an hour on one specific site.

This opens the market to incredibly specific and tailored campaigns as well as becoming feasible for budgets of all sizes. We can engage long-tail advertisers by demonstrating movements in audience accountability, smart location planning and Outdoor’s new similarities to the wider digital, online and mobile landscape.

The new landscape requires even smarter planning

The other key to increasing brand count in the sector is planning as there is now choice and flexibility like never before. Many of the leading media owner platforms (JCDecaux, Amscreen, Ocean, Storm and MediaCo) are driving change to trading mechanisms, with the rise of more "face time" impacts solutions that incorporate audience, time of day and even a trading platform into the transaction.

Soon engagement could genuinely replace time as a currency with outdoor – audience, mind-set, location and message will be at the heart of campaigns.

However, for us as media partners, we need to help this process by demonstrating the tangible value of digital OOH.  We are seeing some tools for doing this emerge, from both media owners and within specialists, and it is down to us to embrace these to create on-going accountability.

What’s the deal with trading?

2014 will also redefine how we trade, focussing on impacts and audience and even reaching a point where we could be trading by hours. I am not talking about cost per engagement as not all advertisers want such granular targeting, but we need to adapt to be able to offer full flexibility to both broad canvas advertisers and those driving location and time-specific messages. This will enable us to expand the market and fully utilize the growing digital capacity that exists and is extending.

Increasingly there is no "one size fits all" client solution and we need to be as imaginative in the way we trade for clients as in the creative execution we present to consumers. We will see significant adjustments in this area and Talon, for one, will not be shy in driving change to our clients.

The changes digital affords Outdoor brings us closer to the world of media by delivering impacts but with a controlled strategy of coverage and frequency. This allows advertisers to achieve exactly what they set out to do through location and time-based targeting; they can now ask "How much face-time did we get?". However we need now to look at effectiveness from a slightly different perspective, with online, mobile and social providing new definitions of ROI.

Location, location, location

One example of this, being undertaken by Talon, is our "Take the City" initiative. Many brands want to target workers during the working week but are inherently paying for seven days’ advertising. We are tailoring campaigns so that advertisers targeting workers are only visible at appropriate times – we can then use the remaining days to reach shoppers, tourists or other audiences. This strategy offers both value and a premium that this audience is worth, primarily by virtue of their location.

In truth this represents an opportunity for digital OOH to differentiate its offer. Route is a key part of this and whilst it needs further development it does mean that when others talk about "big data" we can analyse how formats reach audience and how we reappraise price and delivery as well our definitions of heavy, medium and light weights in OOH by audience, format and location.

This evolution means that OOH will be benefit by digital OOH being less rigid – transcending existing practices has been a stance that Talon has made from the outset of our launch. Whilst this will be most apparent in trading, we are also keen that creative agencies become more aligned to the potential of digital OOH – a real focus for the entire industry.

In short, keep your minds open and your eyes peeled next year, 2014 is set to be an exciting time.

Eric Newnham is the founder and chief executive of outdoor agency specialist Talon

This article was first published on

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