Tag Archives: Engagement OOH

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

View more presentations from Mike Cearley.
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!

Friday’s 4-1-1, Core Story Style

My story

For the next 15 days, I’m going to participate in Reverb 10. It’s an open online initiative that encourages participants to reflect on this year and manifest what’s next. It’s an opportunity to retreat and consider the reverberations of your year past, and those that you’d like to create in the year ahead. We’re connected by the belief that sharing our stories has the power to change us.

Today’s prompt – CORE STORY: What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world?

It’s the end of the year, the final thoughts, the look-ahead, the last of the 2010 Friday 4-1-1’s, and the end of the Reverb10 series, all wrapped up into 1 post. And how fitting it is, stripping things down to the core, the thing that means the most – the story.

My story here has been an exploration. I didn’t start with much of a plan or many key message pillars and certainly nothing in mind for a “year later.” It all started pretty simple. I was open. But what’s happened through the exploration is that I’ve actually formed a story. It’s a story that’s centered around this wide-open space we call Out-of-Home, but it’s not about screens or technology. It’s about INTERACTIVITY, and ENGAGEMENT, and the PLACES/THINGS AROUND US being able to be TURNED ON, and more than anything, it’s about TELLING the BRAND’S STORY. These 4 themes have surfaced to the top in my exploration and it’s here – with these 4 themes – that I want to focus exploring more in the coming year. These are the core themes to my story. So, today’s Friday 4-1-1 is dedicated to them.

1. INTERACTIVITY – From the beginning, I’ve latched onto the concept that Interactive Out-of-Home is markedly different than Digital Out-of-Home. They’re both centered around technology, but different types of technology that do different types of things. I believe that you can make anything interactive, be it from a digital experience or not. But what deems something truly “interactive?” Is it just the fact that a consumer can take some sort of an action? Or is it deeper than that?

2. ENGAGEMENT – Interactivity and Engagement go hand-in-hand. Once something is interactive, it could be implied that it’s engaging. But not so fast. One does not necessarily make the other. The two are linked, yes, but true brand engagement might not be accomplished by simply taking an action. All actions are not created equal. If brands understand where consumers are in the funnel, they can drive true, meaningful brand engagement, all through some level of interactivity. Can this only happen with some scientific formula and an endless well of content?

3. PLACES/THINGS AROUND US TURNED “ON” – This is probably the most nebulous theme of them all, but I believe it’s just because we’re still quite a ways in front of the curve. In 2010, we saw bikes with brains. Trees that could talk. And interactive cars. But these are the exception. Technology is rapidly developing to the point where anything can be turned “on.” Will we see more and more places/things around us taking the place of physical “screens” in 2011? Or will we see more actual screens?

4. TELLING THE BRAND’S STORY – In college, me and my buddy had dreams of becoming the next Coen Brothers filmmaking dynamic duos. He’d direct, I’d write, and we’d both produce. It fit our skillsets and our passions perfectly. So, we grinded through the grind for many years trying to make that dream a reality, but in the end, it just wasn’t meant to be (ironically enough, he heads the film/video division for our company!) Every once in awhile, I get the itch to write another movie. I just haven’t been able to devote the long periods of time that it calls for with everything else going on in my life (I keep telling myself “when the kids are older.”) But over this holiday season, I’ve thought alot about that type of storytelling – the type with a beginning, middle, and end – compared to the brand type of storytelling – the type that’s structured around key messages and evolves over time – and how brands could write their story like a movie. It’s compelling and I’m going to dive deeper into it in the future. Can transmedia work for an automaker the same way it can work for a movie franchise? What does social media do to the story?

“Uh-huh” – At the end of the day, from a brand’s perspective, it’s all about building relationships with consumers. These four themes are at the heart of doing just that. It’s not easy to do, but I want to uncover who’s doing a good job at it vs. who isn’t, especially when they’re reaching people outside of their home.

“Duh” – I hope to not write as much about QR codes in the coming year. Yes, they provide a level of interactivity and engagement, and in some cases, drive the consumer deeper into the brand experience, but the complete solution – from a brand’s POV – needs to be improved. Mobile and Out-of-Home are linked together, and hopefully we’ll see more and more rich experiences involving the two. I’ve got to relax on the QR codes.

So there you have it. I’m excited about this direction in 2011. Thank you all for joining me on this exploration. Your readership and support means an incredible amount to me. I truly appreciate every one of you. I hope you all have a safe, enjoyable and prosperous new year! See you on the flipside.

My Out-of-Home Picture Drawings

For the next 15 days, I’m going to participate in Reverb 10. It’s an open online initiative that encourages participants to reflect on this year and manifest what’s next. It’s an opportunity to retreat and consider the reverberations of your year past, and those that you’d like to create in the year ahead. We’re connected by the belief that sharing our stories has the power to change us.

Today’s prompt – PHOTO:  Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.

The holidays have gotten the best of me and I haven’t been as diligent about this Reverb series as I hoped to be. Now, since I’ve missed a few days, I have a well of prompts to choose from. So over the next two days, I’m going to pick a few out to share. When I initially saw this prompt, I wasn’t too excited about it. But then I got to thinking about some of the OOH graphics I’ve drawn and thought it was an ideal one. Again, this is not a literal response to the prompt, but in the same family.

You’ve probably seen an iteration of this in a previous post. It’s my model of all of the components in any OOH initiative, and specifically, their combined results in the experience (as indicated by the overlaps). It wasn’t as pretty then as it is now (thanks to my design team!), and I’ve actually tweaked it a little since then – the difference being where Place & Content overlap (Consumer Engagement) and Equipment & Content overlap (Technology Experience).

Out of Home componentsIn the original version, I didn’t call out the technology component, rather it was a result that was implied by the each of the overlaps. However, after thinking about it a little bit more, it was apparent to me that it was an oversight and it was an essential component. Now, with this tweak, I feel like it’s a complete model. If you’re thinking about how to develop any interactive Out-of-Home solution, this model is intended to break down – in simple terms – all of the different components and enable you to think through all of the aspects of the experience. I hope it’s helpful and as always, am open to suggestions/refinement.

The other drawings were inspiration for another previous post – Awareness vs. Engagement OOH – and I haven’t shared them here before. In that post, I outlined the big differences between the two, but to get to those differences, I had to draw first. I’m such a big advocate of speaking in pictures vs. words, although I haven’t done much of that here (one of my 2011 resolutions). If done right, the picture can tell you in an instant what it usually takes many words to do.

So, here is my version of AWARENESS OOH:

Awareness Out of Home

Here, it’s simple – the brand is at the center and is pushing out messages to individuals. It’s a one-way communication “about the brand.” Digital signage allows for these messages to be pushed in a more efficient way, but in the end, it’s just a push/one-way message. Nothing more.

Now, the model drastically changes when you’re talking about ENGAGEMENT OOH:

Engagement Out of Home

Here, the model gets more complicated (but not really). First, the messages don’t have to begin with the brand and they certainly don’t have to begin with the brand pushing them out. They can begin anywhere, really. Individuals are already talking about the brand, in and out of the home. So, in Engagement OOH, it’s about being aware of that fact and whatever you do – as a brand – is secondary to the conversation. Here, the brand primarily serves as a connection between the individuals and its goal should be to add value to the brand experience. They can only add true, meaningful value to the experience by creating and participating in a two-way discussion.

The “hows” of all of this are not easy. There are many ways to do this and be effective. The main thing to be aware of, though, is consumers expectations are changing rapidly. With that change comes a change in the value that consumers are going to find in any Out-of-Home execution. We’ve recently seen a couple of great examples in Intel’s Smart TV interactive rotunda in NYC and Yahoo’s Bus Stop Derby in SF and to me, these are a sign of things to come.

Engagement, and everything it means, is going to be key for 2011 and I’m excited to see how both brands and consumers evolve in their Out-of-Home communications. There are many things at play to make all of this happen successfully, and I hope these drawings help in your process, regardless of whether you’re looking at this from a provider’s POV, a media POV, an agency POV, a brand POV, or a consumer’s POV.

Would love to hear your thoughts if you have them….

The Evolution of My Brand

For the next 15 days, I’m going to participate in Reverb 10. It’s an open online initiative that encourages participants to reflect on this year and manifest what’s next. It’s an opportunity to retreat and consider the reverberations of your year past, and those that you’d like to create in the year ahead. We’re connected by the belief that sharing our stories has the power to change us.

Today’s prompt – NEW NAME:  Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?

I’m going to take a little bit of a different path for today’s prompt. It doesn’t inspire me in a literal sense. But it does allow me to formally introduce a few new things to you, namely an evolved brand and point of view. These are things I’ve been thinking about and working on for awhile now, but I’ve been waiting for the right time to roll them out. I’m taking this prompt as the signal that now is the opportune time.

First on the brand – I’m a big believer in establishing consistency with your brand. Brands – especially new brands – take time to form, and their evolution is natural. But in my opinion, they must remain consistent to gain/maintain credibility and sustain themselves over time. This means the look/feel, the voice, the tone, the personality, and the messages can’t stray too far from what they originated from, or else people will either a) get confused and not know which brand they believe in b) question too much whether or not something is wrong with the brand because it’s changing so drastically and/or c) never remember what the brand is all about. There’s always a fine line to walk, particularly with older, more established brands, between staying where they originated and evolving too much, especially to the point where no one can keep up with them. 

I don’t want to do that, but I feel like my brand has matured over the last year due to a good length of time thinking about and studying the space. So, I want to grow with it, and at the same time, guide it to remain consistent with its origin. That said, let me introduce to you the new 11th Screen logo:  

11th Screen

The inspiration is tied directly to my evolved POV. I’ve always felt like we’re in this wide open space called Out of Home and now, more than ever, technology has affected it to the point of few limitations. I don’t think you can put a “screen” label on it because everything’s a screen. It’s just a matter of whether or not it’s been turned “on.”

The depth of this world is fascinating and full of potential because there are so many ways that the physical spaces/things around us can be connected to the virtual world of information/each other. It’s this in-between world – beyond “digital” Out of Home and not as far as the Internet of Things – where engaging experiences can, and are, taking place. And it’s a world full of dimension.  

I started the year out with the experience and intuition that meaningful engagement can happen outside of the home. But my thinking was tied to an actual screen. No more. The beauty about this space is that technology has enabled everything to become a screen and in a large sense, the people are the network. We’re connected with each other more than ever and it doesn’t matter where we are, we’re finding more and more access to the things we want, when we want, how we want them. And I’m not talking about advertisements. I’m talking about experiences.

It’s these experiences that led me to latch onto the idea of engagement Out of Home. And this is really something that I want to dig in and explore even further in the coming year.

So, it’s not an entirely different POV, but an evolved POV. A purposeful evolution. And I hope now and in the coming weeks, that you’ll see this evolution through everything about my brand. I’m excited about the year to come and I’m looking forward to another phase of the journey. I hope you guys find it as exciting as I do.

Turning Awareness into Engagement through Stickybits

(Full Disclosure – I am a part of the Chevrolet Texas team who executed the following work.)

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a model that illustrates the different components of what I believe to be the “new” OOH.  The “new” OOH is less about awareness and more about engagement, specifically on the places and things around us.  Technology has reached a point where it can enable anything to become a “screen,” so while I agree that general awareness is still a critical component in any brand’s marketing mix, I think that brands have an opportunity to use those screens to engage consumers, to drive them deeper into a brand experience.

This past week, we had another opportunity to make one of those “things” around us interactive – a car.  We’ve done this before for the same client (Chevy) at SXSW.  Only then, we placed QR codes on the cars so attendees could learn more about the cars just by scanning the code.  This time, we’ve placed a Stickybit on one of the cars.

Stickybit on car

We’re caught up in the World Series here in Dallas.  It’s heightened because the Cowboys are a lost cause and the Rangers have been so bad for such a long time.  So, the fan fare down here is through the roof.  The Rangers have this inside thing about claws and antlers, so during the Yankees series, we created an “Antler Yourself” site where users could upload a photo and customize it with the antlers of their choice, then send it to all of their friends on social channels.

Chevy Antler Yourself

When the Rangers reached the series, we had an opportunity to extend it in a couple of places and one of the most intriguing was through the use of one of the cars in the fleet.  But instead of just advertising the URL on the car, we knew we could extend the experience even more through a technology like Stickybits.

Quick 101 on Stickybits – it’s a bar code-scanning technology that allows people to attach “bits” (content) to any bar code through scanning it on a mobile phone.  You just need the app and a bar code.  And for those items, like cars, that don’t have bar codes on them, Stickybits provides bar codes that you can put on anything you want.

By attaching the Stickybit to the car, not only are we able to allow people to upload their “Antler” photos directly to the bar code, we’re able to turn the car into a much larger virtual scrapbook.  People can send Good Luck messages to the Rangers via written word, or they can attach a video or a piece of audio, they can even attach different kinds of pictures (which we’ve seen, primarily with tailgating photos).  As of right now, there are 38 bits attached to the code, which means there are 38 different pieces of content that people can experience.  This is much more engaging than just placing the URL on the side of the car, which only serves the purpose of driving awareness.

Technology is giving brands the opportunity to do much more in any channel than they’ve ever been able to do.  We’re seeing this specifically in “Out of Home,” in large part due to the capabilities of mobile phones and all of the different apps that people have created.  We can now place a code on the side of a car and allow consumers to engage with the brand and each other.

So, while it may only be 38 pieces of content, and the content centers around the Rangers and not Chevrolet, it’s still incredibly valuable to the Chevy brand.  They’re bringing this experience to consumers, specifically fans of the Rangers around the most important time in the franchise’s history, that is not only unique, but engaging.

The next time you’re faced with doing something to create awareness, regardless of the “channel” you’re going to use, ask yourself if there’s a way you can turn it into an engagement?  Chances are, you can.

Antler Yourself Stickybit

Awareness OOH vs. Engagement OOH


Over the last couple of weeks (and year, really), I’ve tried to wrap my hands around all of the “OOH” thinking going on in my head.  I’ve put a couple of stakes in the ground along the way.  First there was my definition, then there were the basics of displays and their relationship with technology and what those two combined really mean and most recently, I explored the different components of the “new” OOH.

I feel like, conceptually, they’re all pretty close, but they’re not quite there.  They don’t tell a complete story.  That’s the thing that’s bugging me – the incomplete story.  It’s a complex story, no doubt.  Media consumption and consumer behavior and “always on” technology have evolved to such a high point that there is no longer an easy formula for moving someone down the decision/purchase funnel.  That same technology has transformed the places and things around us into consumption & interaction “screens” – “Out of Home” is no longer just the mass awareness platform that agencies and brands have relied on in their media mix to achieve maximum impressions.

This potential of the “new” OOH is something that I’ve explored since day 1 on this blog, but many disparate thoughts do not a complete story make.  I’m a little closer today than I was yesterday.

If you’re a regular reader here, you know how much I dislike the “Digital Out-of-Home/DOOH” moniker.  I’m starting to dislike “digital signage” just as much, but unfortunately, these are the two most widely-used terms in the industry.  Ask anyone in the industry what they actually do, and 9 people out of 10 (if not all 10) will give you a response with “DOOH” or “digital signage” in it.  And if you asked them what exactly that is, I’d put a solid bet on a response that included something like this – “it’s a network of screens held together by digital technology.

Network.  Screens.  Digital technology.

That’s so 1995.

In all seriousness, here’s my newest stake in the ground (and it’s not groundbreaking, but I think it provides clarity) – OOH, DOOH, and digital signage is Awareness Out-of-Home.  Digital signage (technology + a display) has enabled brands to be more effective at creating awareness, with dynamic loop times and dayparting and on-the-fly content updates, but at the end of the day, it’s all about pushing content out to as many eyeballs as they can.  It’s about impressions.  OOH/DOOH can be an extremely effective channel at achieving those impressions.

Here’s the thing(s) about Awareness though:

  • Relies more heavily on the channel (or “screen”) than it does on the brand story
  • The media component is driven by mass reach, not targeted personalization
  • Brand is at the center, communication is to many
  • It’s a push message, meaning it’s a “talk-to” communication, meaning it’s a 1-way communication, meaning there is no real brand/consumer engagement
  • Consumers are guided down the funnel, literally, by screen (the placement of the screen guides the brand story)
  • The technology is the thing keeps everything connected

So, sure, if you want to talk about networks and technology, er “DOOH” & “digital signage”, here’s where we should be talking.  This is what the industry is talking about now – hardware and software and networks and installations and everything else.  If you boil it down, it’s all an awareness discussion.  This is where my thinking differs from many in the industry (communications, advertising and digital signage industries) that I’ve heard.  I don’t see the potential in using the OOH/DOOH channel as an awareness channel.  It’s an evolved 1995 discussion, with the introduction of new “digital” display technologies, but it’s just display.  Display technologies drive more consumption; they don’t drive more engagement.  And this is the big differentiator – do you want to use OOH, even DOOH as an awareness channel?  Or do you believe that the places and things around us have the ability to engage consumers where they are and actually drive them deeper into the brand experience?  This is the “new” OOH and this is its potential.

Engagement Out-of-Home is predicated on the understanding that a) everyone and everything is connected and b) the places and things around us have the ability to be turned “on.”  Everything is a screen, but the screen is not what makes up the network in Engagement OOH, the people make up the network.  They are made stronger by technology – enabling technologies here, not display technologies – and brands can and should take advantage of these developments.

Just last week, I gave my thoughts on a similar concept, something that LocaModa and Posterscope call “Sociable Media.”  (I spoke to a couple of guys at LocaModa late last week and they provided great insight to their POV.)  We’re all talking about basically the same thing, but I think where I differ is that I think Engagement OOH provides a unique opportunity for brands to go beyond just being there and allows them to tell their story in a way that they would not have otherwise been able to tell it – in an individual, 1-to-1 engagement.  (And it doesn’t have to be on a mobile phone.  It can be on a floor in a store.)  It’s less about the technology and more about the interaction.  That’s the nut – engagement OOH enables brands to be more effective at driving interaction – not awareness – on everything around us.

As compared to Awareness OOH, Engagement OOH:

  • Relies more heavily on the brand story than it does on the channel (or “screen”)
  • The media component is driven by targeted personalization, not mass reach
  • In one sense, the brand is can be the center, but communicate to one.  In another sense, the consumer is at the center and the brand has the ability to engage with them.  The key is that it’s a personalized communication
  • It’s a push/pull message, meaning it’s a “talk-with” communication, meaning it’s a 2-way communication, meaning there is actually real brand/consumer engagement
  • Consumers are guided down the funnel by interaction
  • The brand story is the thing keeps everything connected

So, maybe we still need to be talking in 1995 speak.  I have a feeling that the industry is going to continue to talk in these terms, at least for the foreseeable future.  If you look at social media and the way it had been talked about until the last year or so, it was all talked about differently, too.  Now, there are enough buzz words that can make someone feel sick.  But whenever I hear “DOOH” or “digital signage,” I always stop and give it pause and really try to determine what people are talking about.  And most of the time, they are talking about true “digital” Out-of-Home or true “digital” signage.  Interactivity is either an afterthought or void from the thought altogether.

I just look at it a little bit differently.  For every action, there is a reaction and we have the responsibility, not to mention the opportunity, to be there and interact and have a 2-way communication so the relationship doesn’t end as soon as they walk away.  It gets stronger.  I believe that can only happen through engagement.

It’s important to note that I am not a media guy and never have been.  I’ve always been an experience guy, so that’s immediately where my mind goes, regardless of the “channel.”  I love this space because it truly is a blank canvas, not confined by structure or surface, or technology or medium – only by the limits of our imagination and the strength of a brand’s story.  I’m going to be speaking at CETW in a couple of weeks on Incorporating Digital/Interactive Out-of-Home into Campaign Strategy and from my point of view, after we understand who we’re talking to, the very next question I would want to answer is, “is it Awareness OOH” or “Engagement OOH?”  What do we want to create?  Do we want to push messages out?  Or do we want to engage with consumers around our messages?  This would tell me what technology (or not) I need – display technology or enabling technology – thus defining what the “true” OOH was.

My story still isn’t complete.  It isn’t as focused as I’d like it to be, but I think it’s getting there.  I’d love to hear your thoughts, if you care to share them.  This is truly an evolving space that requires evolving thought, so in my opinion, the more the merrier.