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Should Outdoor Companies Create Content Divisions?

JCDecaux is testing the content waters. But is the ‘eight-second medium’ the right environment, David Benady asks
The decision by JC­Decaux to jump on the content bandwagon with the launch of a dedicated division for its digital billboards demanded attention last week.
The unit has already created a campaign featuring photos of members of the public who are “snappy dressers” to tie in with London Fashion Week. Further activity during National Curry Week featured pictures of chefs on outdoor digital screens. In future, brands will be able to work with the division to create their own branded content.
But are digital billboards the right medium for running editorial-style campaigns? Posters used to be known as the “eight-second medium”: the average time people spend looking at them. Go big and keep it simple is how many approach it, often with powerful effectiveness. So, does hosting more content – branded or otherwise – risk distracting the public and upstaging ad campaigns?
Janet Guest, the editorial director of JCDecaux’s new unit, points out that the company already offers editorial content, running Sky News updates on digital billboards at rail stations.
“Launching a content division makes sense for us because we have national scale and it is giving something back to customers. We are bringing something different that complements advertising on our screens,” she says.
JCDecaux has 1,500 screens across roadside, rail and retail, and its digital sites are seen by 40 per cent of the UK adult population. Guest says that this makes JCDecaux the equivalent to the fifth-biggest “TV station”, after ITV2.
The success of the venture will in part depend on the quality of the campaigns. People will need to learn to see posters as more than simple advertising; there could be an element of confusion on seeing billboards bearing editorial content.
This sums up the challenge for every medium as hybrids between editorial and advertising are explored.
It is still unclear quite what the public make of branded content or how effective it is at giving brands a boost. The industry can’t seem to agree on the implications either, as the responses to the above question show.

No: Mungo Knott, marketing and insight director, Primesight

“Outdoor ads are consumed in bite-size moments, attracting the eye of the audience. Our focus should be on helping the client to create the most effective use of the screen, not trying to trump their ad with a media owner’s own content.”

MAYBE: Clare Hill, managing director, Content Marketing Association

“One thing is critical to success: producing good content, which requires certain skills, whether in video, editorial or illustration. There’s no reason why an outdoor business can’t compete, so long as it applies the right principles.”

YES: Mick Mahoney, executive creative director, RKCR/Y&R

“If they do a great job, then it will stimulate what is already a creative environment. In theory, they should look to push their own boundaries. However, it appears that their starting position is conservative and possibly a little predictable.”

MAYBE: Clare Broadbent, chief executive, Cedar

“Engaging stories can live anywhere, and that includes OOH. But with consumers hit by a blizzard of 3,000-plus messages a day, it’s the brands creating customer-centric ideas across a range of channels that will win hearts (and wallets).”
Via: Campaign

Primesight and MediaTel Partner for Briefing on Connecting Today’s Consumer

Primesight partnered with MediaTel for another breakfast briefing on 12th June. The subject of this briefing and debate is the changing nature of customer interaction with Retail. The 50 guests were a mix of clients, advertising agencies and outdoor media specialists who have an interest and influence in how their business compete for and react to customer trends in the retail space.
Derek Jones (MediaTel) welcomed all guests at Haymarket Hotel where the event took place. Following his brief foreword, Mungo Knott (Marketing and Insight Director at Primesight) set the scene with interesting retail statistics revealing remarkable changes in consumer behaviour and talking about the disrupted path to purchase and consumer journey. His intro and comments served as reference points during the discussion and sparked exciting conversations between the panellists.
The panel was chaired by Dominic Mills, journalist and MediaTel columnist. The panel itself consisted of four exceptional experts in their fields: Bill Grimsey (former CEO of Wickes, Iceland and Focus), Guy Douglas (Digital High Street Programme Manager, ATCM), Steve Smith (Head of Though Leadership Research, Starcom Mediavest Group) and Rob Sellers (Director at Dialogue).
Many topics became the subject of passionate discussions between the panellists, exciting the audience to take part with questions and comments. Starting off with a comparison between the past and present of Retail and the High Street, the panellists delve into topics ranging from the ‘endurance’ of click and collect (Bill Grimsey forecasted its death in 5 years), brands as a focal point of our culture today and natural extensions of ourselves,  the substitution of ‘customer service’ for ‘customer experience’ etc. Further, some of the panel contributors questioned the survival of ‘show rooming’, others predicted its evolution into stock-free shops, meaning we as consumers will browse in-store but make the final purchases online (in the past we used to browse online and purchase in-store). 
Rob Sellers claimed that we have transformed from a nation of shopkeepers into a nation of ‘bargain hunters’, constantly on the watch out of value-for-money propositions. Steve Smith added that it is ‘food and leisure calling the shots at mall and the High Street, not Retail anymore’ and that in order not to fail ‘the High Street needs to entertain and inform’. Guy Douglas contributed with his invaluable thoughts about high street infrastructure, many retail leases coming to an end causing occupancy issues, the importance of the community and other factors in overcoming the repeatedly predicted death of the British High Street.
Bill Grimsey’s input into the negotiations was associated with immense knowledge served with good humour, both highly appreciated by everyone attending the thought-provoking event. The author of the Grimsey review excited the audience by maintaining that the shift in consumer shopping and brand experiences we are about to experience is incomparable to anything we have seen up to this point that only begins with town centre WiFi connectivity making the showrooming activity a seamless experience, extensive use of iBeacons etc.
Via: Primesight