The Evolution of Digital Out-of-Home – My View

Awareness vs. Engagement OOH

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of speaking to the Dallas/Ft. Worth American Marketing Association with 2 extremely talented and smart individuals in the digital signage industry – Brian Hasenbauer from Indoor Direct and Jennifer Bolt, formerly from Tracey Locke, now from RVue. We spoke to the AMA’s New Media Special Interest Group about the “Evolution of Digital Out-of-Home.” Here is my portion of the presentation.

The Evolution of Out of Home

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As much as I can, I like speaking to pictures, not words, so the presentation might be a bit difficult to understand. For regular readers of this blog, my story and view of the Out-of-Home space has been chronicled here many times and the presentation is a brief consolidation of those thoughts. For those new readers, there are a few key themes in my view of Out-of-Home that are reflected in this presentation:
  1. I am not a media person (like Jennifer). I don’t make my living working for a DOOH network (like Brian). I work for a communications company and I am an experience person. I’m very much in the connections business and one of the opportunities that I am faced with is how we can connect people with each other and the brands/organizations they support while they are physically outside of their homes. In a way, I have a grassroots approach to Out-of-Home, but that’s primarily due to the realistic application I can affect given my job. I’m fascinated by the space and the experiences brands can now create Out-of-Home so I think I have a pretty broad perspective, based on experience and study.
  2. I’ve heard “Digital Out-of-Home” (DOOH) referred to as the 4th Screen (Nielsen dubbed it as such) and the 5th Screen and even the 6th Screen. People are coming up with “screen” names for the space that are pretty funny. So, when I started this blog, I picked a random number and ran with it. Thus, the 11th Screen. It’s actually been kind of serendipitous because in the past two years, I’ve realized more and more that we will not need physical screens to interact and engage with while outside of our homes. Technology now enables the places and things around us to be turned on and I think the future is not going to be defined by “screens” at all. So, the idea of the 11th Screen speaks to this notion of our physical world being projected on, interacted with, and made into rich experiences. At least that’s the story I’m running with. :-)
  3. I see this “Out-of-Home” space as a blank canvas to create connections. Our society (and world) is based on human connections. Technology (especially mobile) has enabled broader and more efficient connections. It’s no longer the barrier. In fact, it’s a powerful enabler. So, the opportunity for brands to connect with people while they’re outside of their homes, on the go, is greater today than it ever has been. At the heart of connections is communication and effective communication is 2-way. This is important. Because it requires listening and engaging. Both ways.
  4. Out-of-Home has typically been a great Awareness channel. Effective at getting as many eyeballs on an ad as possible.
  5. The introduction of “digital” to the Out-of-Home mix, insofar as making the display digital, does nothing to channel other than to make it more efficient. Moving images and bling make it into “Digital Out-of-Home,” but it does not fundamentally change the channel.
  6. What does fundamentally change the channel is a different kind of technology – “enabling” technology. Technology that enables connection with the brand or with other people. Technology like touch or gesture or Bluetooth or geo-location or image recognition. There are a fair amount of technologies that enable something digital or non-digital (bling or not) to drive connections. This kind of technology changes the channel from an effective Awareness channel to an Engagement channel, and this is the true potential, and the future, of Out-of-Home. In my opinion.
  7. Then, some examples – the first Walgreens example represents the difference between non-digital Out-of-Home and Digital Out-of-Home. Adding a display technology onto the sign does nothing other than provide more space to advertise.
  8. But, as soon as you introduce a short-code to drive connections on that digital sign, it instantly becomes another way into the brand, a way to connect with them.
  9. Then, you can see other examples of the “Awareness” execution of the space compared to the “Engagement” execution of the space. And the space, again in my opinion, is no longer just billboards, posters, or kiosks. It’s the places and things around us in the real world – like products and packages – that are becoming channels into the brand experience themselves. This is the future. And to me, I’m afraid it can’t be defined as “Digital Out-of-Home.” That is much, much too limiting.

If you have any questions on the presentation, feel free to drop me a line. I’m more than happy to discuss in more detail. As always, thanks for reading!

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