Beyond Borders: The future of OOH is mobile

Craig Page-Lee (@cpl_ignite), the group managing director of Posterscope South Africa opinion piece featured in Mark Lives:
Mobile is driving some of the global trends in out-of-home (OOH) advertising and its importance is also evident here in Africa. I would argue that the OOH discipline is undergoing the biggest transformation of a defined media channel globally.
One example is that there are over 1.5m digital panels already in use in key locations and major cities around the world and millions of transactions are directly influenced by the messages delivered through these engaging and interactive networks. This is where the power of mobile comes to life, allowing brands to get closer to consumer and, in the case of smartphone usage, for data sets to be collated and great intelligence on shopping behaviors to be gleaned.

High-growth areas

Quoting from the most recent PWC Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2015–2019 report, “[a]longside Internet advertising, digital out-of-home advertising (DOOH) will be another high-growth area, with revenues rising at a 13.2% CAGR. Given the high costs of upgrading OOH to digital formats, the most lucrative markets for DOOH advertising will be major cities. By 2019, the city-state of Singapore will see DOOH advertising account for 60.4% of total OOH advertising revenue, while exceptional growth in London will help DOOH’s share in the UK reach 53.7%.”
Aside from advertising revenue, another way of demonstrating the continued strength of OOH is by analysing awards entries. In the 2014 Cannes Lions Awards, OOH featured in nine out of 10 shortlisted entries, second only to social media. There was a strong link to mobile influence and digital use in these successful campaigns.
With this understanding in place, the message is quite clear for the OOH media industry in South Africa — digital is the future — and by this I mean not only digital billboards and digital place-based networks but the inclusion of mobile interaction in the mix.

South Africa’s OOH industry

Taking this into account, I think it’s opportune to firstly provide some context to the SA OOH industry before picking up on the key trends, or themes, being played out across the world.
The industry here is complex and multi-dimensional, represented by traditional outdoor (bringing its own challenges), on one side, and expanding across the value-chain to highly engaging activations and technology-driven mobile interactions and brand experience sharing, on the other.
In summary, the OOH industry represents:

  • Over 11 000 billboard faces, 3mx6m or bigger
  • Over 80 digital roadside screens, with the majority being represented in Gauteng
  • Over 22 ownership zones, 282 static faces and 144 digital opportunities across the Gautrain network
  • Over 40 000 streetpole-ad faces, including super signs, with about 27 000 in Gauteng alone
  • Over 150 large, regional and super-regional malls (these being in excess of 25 000m2/mall)
  • Over 300 digital screens across these malls alone
  • Thousands of brand activations and product launches delivered across the country annually
  • Over 60 screen opportunities adjacent to escalators in Gautrain Sandton station, over 40 screen opportunities adjacent to escalators in Gautrain Rosebank station, and over 20 screen opportunities in Gautrain Park Station
  • Over 7.3m commuters are reached nationally per month through TransitTV alone — at stations, in taxis, at ranks
    • Considering that 84% of taxi commuters are household-purchase decision-makers, this is a highly desirable platform
  • Over 1400 commuter shelters at strategic transport nodes in seven regions throughout Johannesburg, including the highly used Gaturain bus network, in and around Sandton
  • A multitude of wifi networks available within many malls, transport nodes, and on some buses and taxis across the country

Mall environment

It is important to note that 65% of total retail spend in SA goes through the mall environment annually. This means that over R400bn was spent in shopping malls of all classifications in SA in 2014.
The world is constantly being transformed by technology, changing how people behave, especially with OOH and, as noted earlier in this column, we know that mobile has played a huge role in influencing the choice of brands being consumed and the way in which these brands are purchased globally.
To reference Gartner Report — November 2014 and Think Storage — Google APIS — Top 3 Tech Trends, we see that “connected life platforms are emerging and the ‘Internet of things’ is officially a ‘thing’. It further states that over 4,9billion connected things will be in use globally in 2015, up 30% on last year. Mobile however shapes the ‘internet of me’ and the ‘internet of you’. Your smartphone is getting smarter and is the hub for all of these connected platforms. With over 1,3billion smartphones having being shipped globally in 2014 and 1 in 5 searches on Google being related to location, it is obvious to see that the mobile device is the remote control for our lives.”

Common denominator

Taking these statistics into account, and with more people spending more time out of home than ever before, the truly ubiquitous platform and common denominator in all of this is the mobile phone.
Enter the connected consumer.
Consumers expect to get what they want in the moment they want it. The 24/7 on-demand delivery and the mobile phone make interactions as fast, simple and easy as possible. What an opportunity for brands to meet consumers! The impact of mobile is more visible, immediate and measurable today than ever before and, as a result, media can go beyond delivering reach and frequency to actually create measurable business value for clients. Surely the mobile is the ultimate OOH touch-point?
With this in mind, I’d like to address five key trends that are happening in OOH globally and demonstrate how mobile is shaping the industry.

Growing trends in OOH globally

  1. Almost one-third of OOH spend will be on digital
  2. Real-time OOH gets “real” with increased adoption
  3. Mobile behaviour data will inform OOH planning
  4. ‘Location-first’ approach to cross-channel planning
  5. OOH media become a POS for the mobile mall

Trend 1: Almost one-third of OOH spend will be on digital

Increased media-owner investment in high-grade DOOH networks and infrastructure will result in increased advertiser spend pushing DOOH past the one third share of total OOH spend in 2015 for the first time.
Digital OOH revenue will replace physical OOH revenue in countries with mature OOH markets, but with the cost of upgrading to digital formats still being so high, DOOH advertising will be concentrated in large cities, with the most-urbanised markets seeing the highest digital penetration.

Trend 2: Real-time OOH gets “real” with increased adoption

The approach to real-time availability oversight and OOH buying will increase in popularity in 2015, with fully automated real-time OOH trading platforms emerging that allow advertisers to buy and serve adverts on digital networks only when a set of conditions are met at scale-time.
An example of this is when a planned activation has generated sufficient interest and social media sharing that the brand in question serves supporting advertising real-time onto key adjoining DOOH networks and panels, further entrenching the power of that brand. This is where we see the opportunity for programmatic buying across digital networks really coming to the fore in the world of OOH.
Interactivity with consumers will become a key part of OOH advertising and will increasingly feature interactive elements to engage with consumers.

Trend 3: Mobile behaviour data will inform OOH planning

Analysis of new location-based data sets, such as mobile and social, will continue to uncover previously unknown value in specific OOH locations.
If one considers that approximately 6% of tweets disclose GPS location (>30 million tweets per day) and approximately 95% of Instagram posts include the same, imagine the power of understanding where consumers are and what they are talking about, thinking and sharing.
Brands leveraging off these new tools that provide access to hyperlocal social-media usage data — with a high level of geographic granularity, achieved through GPS-based data providing street-level accuracy — will bring another level of understanding of their consumers to life. By understanding mobile activity in and around a physical location, brands will be able to act in real time to deliver more engaging and valuable interactions with these consumers.

Trend 4: ‘Location-first’ approach to cross-channel planning

Geographies will be increasingly aligned in the planning process across OOH, TV, display, search, mobile and other channels.
The consideration of physical inventory such as proximity OOH and also digital location-based opportunities, such as geo-fenced mobile display, targeted SMS and Facebook local ads, are important. Programmatic DOOH solutions that enable buyers to include digital billboards and signage in their campaigns alongside display and social channels will ensure not just a greater portion of advertising spend is assigned to this medium but that genuine integrated communications solutions are delivered.

Trend 5: OOH media become a POS for the mobile mall

Today’s consumers can browse and buy at speed, and the online shops are always with you wherever you go — in the form of tablets and mobile phones.
Understanding this impact upon consumers, knowing what they buy, when they buy and how they buy, the mobile phone is fast becoming ‘the’ point of sale for the mobile mall. Using data from partners such as mobile operators makes it even easier to find the right times and places to influence this behavior.
So what does this mean for the vast number of mobile-phone users on the continent, and is this level of thinking and dependency upon advanced technologies such as smartphones even relevant at all?
Referencing the most recent “Cell Phones in Africa: Communication Lifeline” report, delivered by the Pew Research Centre, April 2015, we see that “across the seven countries surveyed, roughly two-thirds or more say that they own a cell phone. Ownership is especially high in South Africa (89%) and Nigeria (89%), where about nine-in-ten have a cell phone.” We also see that about “34% of South Africans and 27% of Nigerians say their device is a smartphone.” Younger, educated and English-speaking Africans are more likely to own a smartphone, with 41% of 18–34 year-olds and only 27% of 35-and-older owning a smartphone in SA.
The majority of adult cell-phone owners across the African countries surveyed use their phones predominantly to text and take photos and videos, with making and receiving payments on cell phones more prevalent in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania — this because of the effective mobile-money services that have been rolled out in these countries.
While 40% of those surveyed in SA and 47% in Nigeria browsed the internet, less than 14% of cell-phone users in the majority of the countries surveyed used their phones to get consumer information, prices and product availability updates.

Still a long way off

Even with in excess of 1.1bn people on the continent, with such low-income markets where consumers have other more important life-oriented requirements and spend priorities, it is very unlikely that we will see anywhere near the same volumes of transactions and influence in consumer behavior being achieved through the delivery of messages to these consumers. This, too, means that the levels of location-based tracking, integration with DOOH platforms and interactive participation through social networks is still a long way off for the majority of the consumers in Africa.
I wait to see how long it will be before the full suite of trends covered plays out in the SA’s OOH industry.

  • The construct, and much of the content of this current column, is an expansion upon a paper that I recently presented at The Future of Media seminar in Sandton.