Tag Archives: Billboards

“Digital” OOH is Right Around the Corner, but is it Good?

Before this year, guess how many digital billboard I passed on my way to work from my home in the Dallas suburbs to downtown Dallas?

Answer: 0

Sometime early this year, guess how many I started seeing?

Answer: 1

Now, getting into the latter part of the year, guess?

Answer: 5

While 1 to 5 might not seem like a big increase, driving down that stretch of highway and now seeing 5 digital billboards as opposed to 1 actually has a big impact.

1. I’m automatically processing more digital.

2. I’m getting used to more moving images vs. static.

3. I’m interested to see (while not driving, of course) what’s next in the loop of content.

4. I’m starting to feel like I’m in a digital-forward city/environment.

My eye is automatically drawn to them because of all of these reasons. That’s the biggest impact it has. On a personal level.

I can’t help but think about the cost of putting in digital billboards vs. static billboards, but I’m starting to get convinced that cost is certainly not going to be a barrier. In a short 8 months, it hasn’t seemed to be, given the increase from 0-5.

I’m really feeling and believing that this is just going to be the norm. Digital/moving image signs on the sides of highways. It’s right around the corner.

But I also start to wonder if we’ll grow (somewhat) immune to these digital/moving messages, too? Just like we have to static billboards. Over time, once they’re commonplace, will moving images provide even more noise than 1 static image? And in that way, how good (read – effective) has “digital” become?

Could Some of the Most Memorable OOH Executions be Counterproductive to Brands?

11th Screen | The Interactive Out-of-Home Blog

I’ve passed this tire many times over the past few months. Every time I pass it, I wonder what it signifies. So, finally on Friday, as I was passing by it again, I had a conversation with a friend who is also a local. It uncovered something interesting as it relates to the ‘experience’ of anything-out-of-home. Can the experience – in this case, the unique execution – actually be counterproductive to a brand? Here’s the conversation that leads me to question:

Mike: “What is that?”

Friend: “A big tire.”

Mike: “Right. But what does it signify?”

Friend: “I don’t know.”

Mike: “Is Uniroyal’s factory there or something?”

Friend: “No. I don’t think so. I think it’s just a billboard.”

Mike: “Hmm.”

Friend: “One of those crazy billboards.”

Mike: “Yeah.”

This is the first time, after months of passing it, I ever thought of the notion that it was an advertisement (more than a landmark). I carried on.

Mike: “I guess the problem with that is – I don’t ever remember Uniroyal.”

Friend: “Oh, yeah, you forget that part. It’s just the big tire.”

It’s just the big tire. I wonder what Uniroyal would say about that. If it is, in fact, a billboard, it’s the thing that is the most memorable. Not the brand who is bringing the thing to you.

So, this makes me wonder about big, awesome, whiz-bang things that catch our eye – and even make us stop and engage – when we’re outside of the home, captive or not. Could be that those big, awesome whiz-bang things are so big, awesome and whiz-bang that the brand either gets lost or forgotten, or even worse – not associated with the thing altogether.

Without Connections, What Do You Have to Offer?

Are connections today’s currency? Technology has enabled connections to be made quicker and farther and easier. When sitting in front of your TV, you can instantly connect with those watching the same exact thing. When shopping in a store, you can connect with the brands or products you love. You can even connect with strangers to get real-time opinions. Driving in your car, it’s now simple to safe(r)ly connect with your family or share your thoughts with your friends or get pointed in the right direction.

I’m just wondering how much value there is to something (be it a standard billboard or poster or even a digital version of either) that doesn’t enable quick, vast, or easy connections.

Seems like those are becoming stable stakes.

How Not to Make a Digital Sign Interactive

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if you’re going to make a sign (digital or not) interactive, it must be accessible. That is to say, if it could do something like cause someone to get in an accident while driving, it’s probably not the best thing to do.

Imagine a huge sign marking the presence of an Outlet Mall. One of those signs that run all of the different advertisements from all of the different stores and can be seen from a good ½ mile away. It might as well be the mall’s personal billboard.

Well, now imagine a QR code on that sign. Even better, imagine trying to interact with that sign via the QR code and your mobile phone while driving by.

Needless to say, I was surprised to see it as we passed it. In fact, I don’t know that *surprise* accurately describes my reaction. It was more like, WTF?

While this is not the best picture, it’s all I could take. You’ll just have to believe me that there is a huge QR code taking up that sign.

QR code on digital sign

It seemed to be on screen for ~10 seconds, which is another important lesson.  Since people are clamoring to snap this QR code on this huge screen outside of an Outlet Mall, why don’t you hurry the process up a little bit more by giving them a short 10 seconds – at the most – to get their phone out, take over driving with their knee, launch their QR code reader, put the phone up in the right position so the QR code is centered in the screen, snap the code, realize what it is it’s taking them to, and resume driving. Oh yeah, if the content behind the code is valuable enough, why not exit from the freeway, too.

I don’t know what part of this whole experience is a good idea.

See, just because you can make something interactive doesn’t mean you should. Context – in the form of placement – is everything. In this case, if they wanted to deepen the experience in any way via mobile, why not put a short code on the sign? At least that’s an action that doesn’t require immediacy.

Better yet, why not put, “we’ve got great deals here and we want you to be safe, so why don’t you just stop on by and we’ll show you.” I guarantee you that that will be more effective than the QR code that they have running now.

Embrace the Phone, People. Embrace the Phone.

11th Screen | The Interactive Out-of-Home Blog

Let me tell you a little story about my phone…

First, know that I am a devout player of Fantasy Football. With the season fast approaching, the leagues that I am in have been completing their drafts over the past few days. This year, my neighborhood league was pulled together at the last minute and we were trying to get a draft going this past Sunday morning.

Well, this weekend, I was at my in-laws and we were scheduled to drive back to Dallas on Sunday morning. Staying longer at my in-laws in order for me to do the draft, in the confines of their home with the luxury of wireless, unfortunately, was not an option. Not because I have any ill feelings toward my in-laws and we HAD to leave, but because with 3 kids, it’s critical to travel during the window where they’re the least unruly. So, it just so happened that travel time and draft time collided.

What to do?

Well, at first I just resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to participate in the live draft with my comrades so I custom-ranked my players in order to let the computer pick wisely for me. But that didn’t really sit well with me because one of the funnest parts to playing Fantasy Football is the draft. There’s strategy and trash talking and fun to be had during the draft. The computer gets none of that.

The next option was my iPad. I could use it in the car as long as I got my wife to drive. She was down and I was in. This was perfect, I thought, and actually a new experience. And one that I could give play-by-play to my wife because, of course, she would want to know everything about my draft. Well, there’s a thing with the iPad called Flash and when something, like a Fantasy Football draft widget operates on it, it might as well not exist. It was the first adverse Flash event I’ve experience on my iPad and I did curse it.

Now, really, what to do? I could try to call my picks in, but that just wouldn’t be viable for me or the person receiving my calls. Despite my good nature, I wouldn’t want any part of that, being on the receiving end. I reached the point that I just knew the computer would have to do the work for me and my season would be left up for chance. Hardly any control to defend my Neighborhood Champion title, which brings a good amount of street cred with the other dads. It was turning out to be a bummer.

But then….I looked down and saw my phone. My glorious phone. My phone that has an Internet connection and isn’t an “i” anything. Thank you, Google. I opened up the browser, went to the site, tested my system and viola, it worked. I was in business.

Now, I’ve recently written a number of times about the noise that we have to wade through to get to the quality content and experiences that are of benefit to us. I look at smart phones the same way – they are equipped with a lot of noise. I don’t download many apps on my phone because, honestly, it’s too overwhelming. The main function on my phone is text messaging. The second is the actual phone. The third is email. That’s about it. And I’m perfectly fine with that. (My kids, however, use more of the power of my phone than I do.)

But not today. Today, I rejoiced in the power of my phone.

So, the lesson here is – if you have a smart phone, it is powerful. Possibly even more powerful that you ever thought. It is a true enabler of so many things, be it a Fantasy Football draft, showing your mom pictures of kids through Facebook, or controlling a game on a billboard in the middle of Times Square.

Embrace the phone. Everyone, embrace the phone. It can open up a whole new world.

If You Want to Create, Just Get it Out & Down

11th Screen | The Interactive Out-of-Home BlogI read a great article the other day about a regular creative practice that is incredibly selfish, but incredibly brilliant, especially for those of us who just want to create. It boils down to a simple practice where you just get thoughts out of your body and down on paper. So, there might be some times here – like today – that I just write down some thoughts, more stream of consciousness than anything else. They’re not refined and they’re not packaged. Some of them might not even make sense. But they’ll be out. And hopefully, you might be able to take some nuggets away, and even more than that, hopefully they’ll serve as an inspiration for me to create something better to share with you guys. Here goes…


Next time you’re outside of your home, stop and look around. How many screens do you see? How many places/things turned “on” do you see? Screens are all around. In fact, what does the term “screen” mean anymore? What about the mobile screen in your hand?


Once upon a time, engagement was confined to a TV set or billboard. For the longest time, it was a passive experience. Then, along came computers, which enabled an instant connection to the information customers were searching for. This created an active experience. But time soon showed that the instant connection was no longer fulfilling people’s needs. So, enter the open web and social media, where the connection actually became a two-way interactive experience. But still, people were confined to their homes or offices with their tethered devices. At the same time, they were spending more and more time on the go, outside of those homes and offices. Those tethered devices were becoming more and more limiting. So, enter the mobile phone, where quickly, it became less and less a phone and more and more a device that enabled instant connection to information, people, and brands. In the process, those connections enabled experiences – dynamic, two-way interactive experiences. And here we are today, where passive experiences are a thing of the ancient past.


We’re living in a world where engagement extends far beyond our living rooms and offices. It’s everywhere we are. Out and about. On the go. It’s the world. “Out-of-Home” has taken on a new meaning.


It’s no longer a mass-awareness blanket, it’s a mass-engagement canvas. (Now there’s a thought, an inspiration.)


BTW – here are some great pieces of that article:

In her classic book The Artist’s Way, creativity expert Julia Cameron shares a practice she stumbled upon while living in New Mexico and recovering from yet another in a series of career disasters. Every morning, she writes out three pages, longhand, of pure stream of consciousness.

What Cameron is advocating through the practice of Morning Pages is the act of “Unnecessary Creating.” That is, creating for ourselves rather than for others.

A few key qualities of Unnecessary Creation:

  • You set your own agenda.
  • You have permission to try new things and develop new skills.
  • You can take as much or as little time as you need to get it right.
  • You can stretch yourself, explore fringe ideas that intimidate you, and make things that no one but you will ever see.
  • If you fail, it’s no big deal.

When we spend all of our time and energy creating on-demand, it’s easy to lose touch with the passions that fuel our best work. We grow used to leveraging our abilities for the sole purpose of meeting others’ expectations rather than exploring new possibilities and taking risks.


The Evolution of OOH – Pt. 2

In my new exploration to try to find the 3.0 versions of OOH executions, I don’t think I’m going to have to search hard. They seem to be popping up every single day. The problem is in their scale. They’re typically one-off, experimental examples. Nonetheless, they deserve attention. This time, a billboard:

The 1.0 version

Billboards for Everyone 1.0

And the 3.0 version

Billboards for Everyone 3.0

An augmented-reality, GPS-based personal billboard that can be shared with your own social network. Instead of expressing your road-rage and/or road-delight expressions with cars and/or other drivers next to you, just hold up your phone, pick an emoticon and post it to your Facebook wall. (You can see more in the video below.)

This is a great example of how to make billboards interactive, but there are only a handful of places this would work. Somewhere where stop and go traffic, er gridlock, is the norm. Somewhere like NYC, right outside of the Holland Tunnel. Where this happens to be placed. So, they’ve got that working for them.

This has all of the characteristics of a 3.0 execution:

1. The experience – you can interact with the static billboard through your mobile phone. Just launch the AR application, point it at the billboard and the billboard will tell you how it feels and/or you can tell others how you feel, vis-a-vis the billboard.

2. Sharability – an interactive billboard like this is unique, so it’s more likely to drive a little bit more interest than normal. In a place like New York, it might drive a lot of interest. But aside from the interest, once people start to engage with the experience, sharing is at the center of it. What good is it to keep your emotions all pent up inside yourself? Especially in today’s hyperconnected world when everyone wants to share how they’re feeling, what they’re doing, and just generally, what they think of everything in the universe? Why not share how you’re feeling when sitting in traffic? Sounds reasonable to me.

3. Smart – traveling in and out of New York can be a bear. You can literally sit in one spot for an hour. While the message here is not groundbreaking, it does give travelers another way to express themselves, which everyone loves to do anyway. And to me, this is one of those smile things. When you engage in the experience, it can bring a smile to your face. Having sat in this particular place many times, before, after and/or during a busy New York day, I can say that smiles are not only good, they’re needed. Now, New Yorkers could care less about smiling or interacting with a silly billboard. But me, I like it.

4. Scalability – Billboard space is all over so we’ve got that going for the scalability of this execution. Smart phones will soon not be a barrier to something like this. A technology like augmented reality might. I still don’t know if the average consumer knows and/or cares to know about a technology like this. And if they do, how many times will the actually use it? If it unlocks experiences like this, perhaps it will increase interest and demand enough to break the barrier.

How many times would I engage with this billboard? After the first time, probably not too many. But what if most, if not all billboards could be personalized in an experience like this? It would completely change the way we interact with our surroundings. And that is the power of this new – 3.0 versioned – OOH space. It is inherently interactive. Not static. Not digital. Interactive.

Note – This unique billboard is part of the ADstruc’s ‘Billboards for Everyone’ campaign that partners with artists and designers to help promote creativity and innovation in the outdoor space. Very cool stuff. Check them out.

Getting Back to my OOH Basics

I’ve been on vacation the last two days.  To say it’s a vacation is an overstatement, but nonetheless, it has given me an opportunity to step back from work a little bit, recharge and regain my focus.  So it is with this blog, too.  I’ve been going heavy for a short three months and I feel like I need to take a step back and level my focus.  Remember the basics.

This diagram is the foundation for the way that I look at OOH.  DOOH & IOOH are just additions onto this model.  But to me, this is the most basic representation of how I view this world. 

There are  3 buckets that all OOH initiatives fall into:  Billboards, Posters, and Kiosks

They are separated by 3 differentiating factors:  amount of Information, length of Engagement, and potential for human Interaction

I believe that you can bucket any OOH initiative into one of these 3 buckets by using this guide.  Let’s give it a try:

Advertisement on top of a taxi (or the side of a bus):  I would say that this is a billboard.  These usually have very little information, no potential for human interaction and the length of engagement is very low due to the environment (transit) that they are viewed in.

Advertisement behind home plate in a baseball stadium:  Again, I would say that this is a billboard.  Little information.  No potential for human interaction and while the length of engagement is longer in this setting, the other two factors handicap any “real” engagement.

Movie poster:  Easy enough – poster, but posters are interesting.  By design, they’re effective at including more information than billboards (and less than kiosks).  And because they have more information, people can actually walk up to them, touch them, and “engage”, even if it means absorbing information. 

Mall directory:  I would say that this is a kiosk.  Lots of information.  Designed for human interaction and as a result, enable longer interaction.

All of this becomes clearer when you start adding technology to the mix.  I believe that there are technologies that simply make them “digital” and then other technologies that make them “interactive.”  But we’ll get into those later.

This is important because as a marketer, I feel like this helps hone in what one should be doing in this arena.  I’ve got some marketing-specific additions to the model, too.  But we’ll take it one step at a time.  We’ll get to it.

What examples do you want to put to the test?