A couple of days ago, I shared my vision of OOH. It’s pretty simple. In my view, OOH is broken down into 3 buckets – categories of displays if you will – billboards, posters & kiosks. They are separated by 3 differentiating factors – amount of information, length of engagement and potential for human interaction.
This view is important to me because of what happens when you start to add technology onto it. What exactly does that technology do? And what is the true impact of technology on this medium? So, first, to show my view on the most overused moniker in the industry – Digital Out of Home (DOOH):
When you add digital to this model, you get the same exact model with just a little different shading. It doesn’t change much other than the fact that there is now some sort of technology applied to the medium. In this case, “digital” is just the addition of display technology. As I’ve said before, display technologies are a finite list of technologies – LCD, LED, projection. All it does is enable a static display to become dynamic. For advertisers, this, of course, has a substantial impact, both with advertising-based displays/networks and non-advertising-based displays/networks. But the true effect on the consumer’s experience isn’t drastically different. When you apply a display technology to a billboard, you get a different type of billboard, but by and large, it has the same effect. Ditto for posters and kiosks. As a consumer, I’m still getting the same amount of information, I’m still engaging with it the same length of time and the potential for my interaction with it hasn’t changed. The primary difference is that it now moves. Is it more effective? Maybe. If I respond better to moving images rather than static display. If the content is compelling. But I don’t think it moves the needle by itself. The true magic happens when you make OOH & DOOH interactive, which I’m calling Interactive Out of Home (IOOH).
Now, not only is the model shaded even more differently, it takes on a completely different form. Interactive billboards become something closer to posters. Interactive posters become something closer to kiosks. And kiosks become something they’ve never been. Interactivity and the technologies that enable it have a profound impact on OOH & DOOH. I call these technologies enabling technologies – technologies that enable personalized experiences from each of these displays. Technologies like touch screens, motion sensors, RFID, NFC, Bluetooth, mobile and its enabling technologies like GPS, 2D/3D barcode scanners and Augmented Reality – the list is certainly larger than the display technology list, but still finite (at least right now. I have no doubt it will grow with time.) But they all drastically effect the experience in the same fundamental way – they enable a level of personalization that is deeper than any of these displays provide in their raw, even digital, forms. This personalization is really the key to effective communication, which is the key to creating and sustaining relationships between brands and their audiences. This is the special effect that I believe OOH, as a medium, can and will have on marketers and consumers in this new day and age, particularly as newer technologies are introduced. But it’s all about the interactivity. A traditional OOH installation can be made interactive, just as a DOOH installation can be made interactive. In some cases, I believe the technology inherent in DOOH makes it easier to incorporate enabling technologies, but this is not always the case. It does not need to be “digital” to include interactivity. A perfect example of this is our QR code initiative at SXSW. A static (non-digital) QR code was added to a static display (car, which in this case, I would consider a “poster” in my model – not that it includes a wealth of information, but a static car like that, in that type of environment, provides a level of human interaction and length of engagement similar to a traditional poster) and with the use of mobile as the enabling technology, attendees were able to experience a deeper, personal engagement with the brand. This is why I think it’s critical to make a distinction between “digital” and “interactive” in this way. Interactivity allows the consumer to experience more information, and engage and interact with it in a deeper way. It is worlds different than just “digital.”
This sort of engagement opens up an exciting and scary world of possibilities. Brands will sooner or later understand that they can (and should) use the spaces and things around us, in our everyday lives, as effective communication tools. It has a drastic impact on them and their ability to touch their audience anywhere they want/need. We’re a ways off though, as you’ve heard me say before. But make no mistake, technology – specifically enabling technologies (not display technologies) – transforms the OOH world into something that has only truly been applied in books and movies. For now, we keep pushing and experimenting.