An industry that is suffering because of lack of research and insights has seen a change over the past few years – a change that has put us in an intriguing position today. On one hand OOH has a rich heritage. As one of the ‘traditional media’ – indeed, the oldest medium – we have a long and impressive track record that we can point to hoardings work. On the other hand, the newer formats being developed in OOH and the way they connect with smartphones – carrying consumers with other media, make OOH one of the most future-facing of all media.
Those of us who work in OOH are keenly aware of this. But those who don’t deal with the industry on a day-to-day basis may not be so aware of the technological changes that have changed the face of our medium. They may more readily think of the ‘traditional’ side of the medium, rather than the cutting-edge side of it.
I think the OOH industry faces a big question right now: do we want to be associated with the past, or do we want to be associated with the future? The reason this is such a big question is because industries – as we know – follow a ruthless, Darwinian trajectory. The dinosaurs die out very quickly. You adapt or you’re gone. So, although there is a lot that's very positive about OOH’s past, and while traditional posters remain a very powerful part of any marketing armoury, I think there’s only one answer to this question.
We need to be associated – in the minds of clients and media planners – with the future. Media planners have a natural affinity with the future. They’re looking for something new and different to excite their clients. If you’re looking for new and different, you don't go looking in a box marked ‘traditional’. If they perceive OOH as an old or traditional medium, it could quickly become a problem for us – a big Darwinian problem.
We need them to perceive OOH as new and different or, at least, we want them to understand that if they’re looking for something new and different, OOH would be a worthwhile place to look. Fortunately, I think we can do this. The groundwork has been laid by the investment in new formats.
Technology exists for both, new and older formats to play an integral role in influencing today’s connected consumer. We are part of the future. But to make sure we're perceived as such, we need to take every opportunity to behave like a new medium. One area where we can clearly do this is in rethinking our attitude to data and knowledge. How do new media behave in this regard? They share. They take an open-source attitude.
Traditionally we don't share. We regard data and knowledge as something that might offer a competitive advantage. So we keep it to ourselves and guard it jealously. This is an outdated attitude, it's a traditional attitude, and it will perpetuate media planners seeing us as a traditional medium that behaves in traditional ways.
If we can start to behave more like new media companies and throw our data out there for everyone to use, the benefits to our medium overall will surely outweigh the marginal benefits for an individual company of keeping things to itself. It will firmly establish us as a forward-thinking medium in the minds of the people who are in a position to spend more money with us. We need to share our insights and data about how consumers behave in this new, connected economy. We need to move towards genuine real-time planning and we won’t get there by acting selfishly as individuals; but we can get there working together.
It will require a huge cultural shift to start sharing, of course. We’re used to treating all of this data as marketing collateral; but if we can make this change, and start to work together to develop the insight, the benefits will be there for all of us. We will be giving a new generation of media planners what they want – better insight and better measurement. If we have an opportunity to make media planners’ lives easier and we don't take it, we’re missing a trick.
The author is Managing Director of Posterscope