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Capitalising on the marriage of mobile devices and outdoor media

Technology & Data

Capitalising on the marriage of mobile devices and outdoor media


Are marketers equipped to get the most from the marriage of mobile and outdoor? Michelle Dunner reports.

The Digital Outdoor IssueIn the film Minority Report, Tom Cruise walks into a shopping centre and is inundated by advertising holograms turning him on to everything from a deal at Gap to a pint of Guinness. It was characterised as part of a disturbing, dystopian future, but marketers the world over licked their lips.

Mobile technology for delivering outdoor advertising and marketing has come a long way. It may not have the ability yet to beam directly to our frontal lobes, but it has evolved light years from traditional outdoor advertising.

The watchword now is interactive, rather than static, driven by technologies that make the experience personalised, direct and powerful, even if those devices are in our pockets, rather than our eyeballs, as in Minority Report.

But despite the ubiquity of smart devices, underpinned by generous data plans or access to public Wi-Fi, combining mobile and outdoor is far from being a slam dunk for marketers.

While technologies such as NFC, beacons and geofencing have dramatically expanded what’s possible, technology is not all things to all target demographics. There’s a danger for marketers focusing on the means rather than the message.

Mark Fairhurst, general manager of sales at APN Outdoor, says there are significant reasons why mobile and outdoor go together, and to truly realise success marketers need a clear picture of what they’re trying to achieve with their campaign.

“With 62% of people saying they couldn’t imagine life without their smartphone, it makes sense to integrate this into campaigns targeting people who are out and about.”

“Advertising in specific environments, particularly buses, trams, railway stations and airports, can successfully facilitate straight calls to action, but across every environment it’s essential to understand what functional role mobile and outdoor collectively play, otherwise you may end up with just a gimmick or a stunt when there’s a need to get meaningful data and a measurable outcome.”

Fairhurst says that when technology’s new, embracing it can be about conveying that a brand is progressive, “but if you don’t understand what you’re trying to achieve it can be a bit hollow,” he says.

“You need to ensure each of the platforms in play have a functional role, independently and in conjunction, and it is the successful interplay between outdoor and mobile that we have seen work so well when the balance is right.”

Fairhurst believes technological wizardry will not overcome a lacklustre offer.

“What we’re putting in place now certainly offers advertisers and marketers frequency of message and also opportunity to engage.”

“Our research has shown that the key to success though is providing and promoting a compelling offer. People aren’t inclined to make the effort, use their data or waste their time unless the offer is compelling and unique,” he says.

Ease of engagement and expediting the connection between outdoor and mobile is also a key consideration.

“At APN Outdoor we’ve just put 2000 beacons into the bus network in Sydney. Where NFC is more about a call to consumer action, the beacons are able to push messages without any effort required and their success comes down to being timely, relevant and effortless.

“We think it will be a successful way for advertisers to engage in meaningful interaction with customers in an otherwise empty moment. You’re more likely to respond to a push message on a bus than walking through a shopping centre with the kids in their stroller.”

“It really is all about matching a mobile-led campaign with the right environment, for the right purpose, and when this works it truly elevates a campaign.”


The need for dwell time

Technologies to harness the power of mobile and outdoor have only really come to the fore since 2012, Fairhurst says. “Before that, our mobile campaigns were limited to Bluetooth or QR codes – a more basic interaction.

“In saying that, there’s still a world of potential in terms of ad serving to mobile from outdoor, whether that be based on some kind of geofence campaign or otherwise, we are very focused on being not only first, but best to market with these types of progressions.”

Any way you look at it, it’s about dwell time, Fairhurst says.

“If I have an empty moment, sitting in an airport for example, I can choose to respond to email or do something fun.”

“When you’re standing on a train platform, sitting in the airport, on the bus, you have no stimuli. The bus is the classic environment. You’re trying to avoid the other people around you. There’s a very high dwell time, for example, when you’re on your way to work and all of a sudden there’s a message saying, ‘Your chance to win’ or ‘two-for-one introductory offer’. Our research tells us that 70% of bus commuters are willing to engage with advertising if there’s something in it for them.”

And it’s not just the research.

“I know of a health fund that engaged Tapit within their campaigns earlier this year and recognised this as a great opportunity to communicate about something you’re unlikely to set aside your own time to organise,” he says

Rob Marston, Australia and New Zealand head of Airwave, the mobile division of OMD, says mobile can work well with outdoor media, but complexity and scale are the biggest hurdles.

“To get from a physical poster to a mobile, there needs to be a bridge,” he says.

“The options – QR codes, NFC and beacons, geofencing – none are perfect. QR is the most universal because everyone has a camera on their smartphone, but it’s not sexy. The scale is awesome, but there is complexity – you need to download an app to be able to read the code.”

“And there’s not been the uptake like we’ve seen in Japan. I saw a study from a couple of years back that only 4.6% of people used QR codes and 62% didn’t even know what they were.”

NFC on the iPhone is limited to Apple Pay. For Android, BlackBerry, there’s very little scale and lots of complexity. Beacons are fabulous and can do lots of amazing things, but they need to talk with a native app. It’s important for marketers to understand the challenges.

“It’s still a bit clunky and I don’t think anyone’s doing it particularly well. There’s still an education piece that needs to happen. NFC, beacons, QR codes and geo-fencing are all valid and appropriate tools in the mobile marketer’s arsenal and while it may appear that they perform the same task, they are components of a location marketing communication mix and should be viewed as complementary more than competitive.”

Each ‘tool’ has its own merits and limitations, Marston says, and as such it is vital to understand both the context in which it will be used and the audience to be engaged.

Beacons are a red-hot topic in the mobile world, not least since Facebook announced it will begin to test them as part of its new Place Tips service.

“Beacons are a perfect solution for linking outdoor with mobile,” Marston says, “As they ‘listen’ for users when they are in proximity to the beacon. When they ‘hear’ the user’s device, they can activate content on the device, possibly even deep within an app.”


The customer value exchange

Marston says marketers still view mobile as an isolated part of a campaign, rather than how it supports and augments the advertising activity.

“Brands need to understand the ‘customer value exchange’ – why would the customer want to give up either valuable screen space for an app, or bend down to snap a QR code or tap an NFC chip? This shouldn’t be new to marketers, but has mostly been overlooked to date.”

Sanjay Manandhar, founder of digital signage platform Aerva, which has partnered with APN Outdoor New Zealand, says mobile and outdoor are ideal for cross- channel messaging.

“Every consumer has a mobile device when they’re out of home, away from the more typical channels like TV and, to a certain extent, also not using online browsers.

“But all channels can be integrated into a holistic experience, which is what consumers/end-users care about. They don’t care about the marketers’ ‘silos’ and budget pools.”

He points to a global user-generated content campaign Aerva did with HTC, which extended it beyond the outdoor presence in Times Square. Consumers all over the world submitted images in a photo sweepstakes for a chance to win a 24-karat gold plated phone.

“The virality of social and online amped up the reach beyond a simple digital outdoor campaign. We were also able to include a ‘moderation engine’ that filtered out unwanted content.”


The social compact

Social has a major role to play in broadening the appeal of outdoor media, says Jenny Goodridge, head of business development and platform partnerships for Twitter, in Australia and New Zealand.

“While technologies such as NFC and beacons are making outdoor less about delivery of static, short-lived messaging and more about driving brand/consumer engagement, Twitter offers a number of further advantages,” she says.

“Twitter operates largely over the mobile network and in real time, so there are no proximity limitations requiring people to walk up to the outdoor ad and tap it or be within range of a beacon antenna. Most compellingly, Twitter is a public platform meaning brand engagement happens on a many-to-many basis, dynamically, on mobile and in real time.”

Goodridge says marketers need to find ways of breaking through information overload.

“Integration of messaging through different media channels is really critical to improving cut-through and spend efficiency,” she says.

“Social media takes this one step further by helping tie together messaging through various media channels to improve retention. That means the amplification of messaging happens to the widest possible audience and opens up all sorts of engagement opportunities with consumers.”

Further, social content created by the brand or its audience is increasingly being leveraged in campaigns, including on digital outdoor sites. Live events are a standout example, with digital screens curating user-generated content.

A collaboration between Topshop, Twitter and curation platform Stackla during London Fashion Week featured digital billboards with trending hashtags from fashion influencers that could immediately be shopped by consumers.


A growing share of the pie

While some marketers look at the UK as a hotspot for mobile and marketing tech, Fairhurst says he doesn’t believe that’s necessarily the case for outdoor.

“Anything that is possible we’re doing and, in some cases, we’re leading the way,” he says.

“The biggest challenge with outdoor is education. There’s so much going on, so much fragmentation, it’s almost impossible for marketers to keep up.”

A major aspect of technology’s appeal is the ability to measure.

“It is increasingly about the measurement – with Wi-Fi, Tapit, you can have a data dashboard tailored to suit your individual needs; it really shows up whether your offer is compelling to consumers.”

“Data feedback through this tech is limitless, but marketers need to understand the functional role the combi- nation of mobile and outdoor plays in the campaign. They need to ask themselves: ‘What am I trying to learn? What kind of engagement and how easy is it to engage with this audience?’ There are lots of things clients need to get their head around.”

Airwave’s Marston adds, “The technology from both sides is progressing rapidly and data collected from ‘listening’ to consumer behaviour will enable out of home inventory buys to be optimised to create a more efficient and targeted campaign.”

“Targeted digital signage serving real-time relevant messages using the data collected from mobile is unquestionably the next phase for digital out of home. Importantly, marketers need to understand the pros and cons of all of the options and should look for trusted advisers to help them get the most out of this cross-channel opportunity.”

Aerva’s Manandhar agrees: “Anything that has user participation generates metrics that are extremely valuable. Aerva has used a combination of beacons, digital screens and products to demonstrate the efficacy and attractiveness of an offering on visual screens – and they are tweakable in real time.”




Michelle Dunner

A prolific writer and editor, Michelle has worked in newspapers, magazines and radio for most of her career and now combines that with running a communications and public relations consultancy, working mainly in financial services, construction, property and health and lifestyle. For fun she writes some more, blogging on her food and wine experiences around the world and is finishing her first novel.

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