The right environments for engaging the world

In my line of work we’re often confronted with two pieces of film purporting to encapsulate the development of digital and the effect that out-of-home media has on the individual at any given point. The first is the famed ‘Minority Report’ piece where Tom Cruise is confronted with digital outdoor media recognising and addressing recommendations to him personally. The second is the Simpsons ‘Billboard changing day’, with Homer Simpson promising: ‘Whatever you say, Mr Billboard’. With the focus on the development of out-of-home environments where digital is either the majority, or the entirety, of the advertising portfolio available, we probably need to make a mix of the two. Perhaps Homer in a mall of the future: “It’s billboard changing hour! Whatever you say right now, Mr Digital Billboard”.

To reference some of the most high-profile out-of-home locations where digital dominates, there’s Heathrow Terminal Five, with ground-breaking digital inventory that arguably set the bar for others to reach. The London Underground, with its pockets of focussed digital development at audience pinchpoints. And there’s the development of digital-only malls such as Buchanan Galleries, Westfield and Westfield Stratford City. Now of course there is the just-announced digital-only network at Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in Paris, and the recent unveiling of e-motion at Euston Station.

All these are examples of media owners investing and working with partners in order to provide the most engaging environment possible for advertisers’ messages as well as an improved experience for consumers. The out-of-home media owners have heeded the requests of the companies who use their space to make it more dynamic and more flexible, and in so doing have opened up the medium’s potential to a greater number of advertiser categories. There have been some truly effective uses of these spaces and their potential to date. To draw from our own JCDecaux Airport examples, Estee Lauder showed time-sensitive digital ads for Bobbi Brown (pictured), running the copy in Chinese at a time when a large number of flights to relevant countries are scheduled; IBM ran live country-specific Wimbledon updates, linked to the flights listed on the Departures boards; and Omega displayed a watch showing the real time and the number of days to the start of the Olympic Games.

But what is critical is that advertisers truly embrace the opportunities these present. In many cases they’re new spaces with new potential, which need therefore to be considered differently even to existing digital estates. It’s been said many times, but it’s worth saying again: the Olympics provides subject matter for advertisers to be uniquely creative and relevant; these new digital developments deliver the canvas – or, I should probably say, the screen – for them to engage this world.

So I think it’s time for a rallying call to arms by the advertiser to their creative agencies to see the potential for what it truly is, and to use it to optimum effect. It is no longer about multiple posters communicating a single message on multiple occasions. Technology and scheduling mean it can be about immersing a consumer in a series of messages, or a message that develops each time it is viewed. The multiple screens are used to tell a story, and create impact and engagement by drawing the consumer in to a brand’s world through the chance to build a personality for that brand, and to communicate it.

To bring us back to the out-of-home media land cliché with which I started, I don’t think we’ve got Homer or Tom Cruise. But that said, it seems that whenever these new, technologically-sophisticated environments are launched, it is a wasted opportunity for them not to be used in this way.

  • Flavia Giardino

    Great article Liz. Interactive media is becoming the next big thing in advertising and it can be far more effective than traditional advertising at capturing people’s attention. We also see a lot of potential there.