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The future is not Google-able: OOH in 2020 to be fuelled by collaboration and creativity

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There is quite literally only one certainty about predictions, and that is how “the future is not Google-able.” (William Gibson). 

Yes, we can give rigorous evidence-based forecasts of the rational - DOOH is growing, and saw growth of +17.1% in Q3, comparable to Q2 (+17.2%) and stronger than Q1 2019 (+11%) Classic OOH is also growing [Q3 (+2.4%), slightly up on Q2 (+2.3%), and the entire market is in great health [OOH in the UK reporting growth of 9.8% YoY in Q3 2019].*

if we’re looking back, we can’t also be looking forwards

And that’s great news, of course. But our excitement should really be reserved for what’s coming, not what has already been. How that retrospective rigour needs future focus. It’s simple physics: if we’re looking back, we can’t also be looking forwards.

There’s no denying that what has come before provides security; a comfort in turbulent and unpredictable times. But it’s this realm of ‘next’ that provides us with myriad opportunities to build, sculpt, code, and invent the future of OOH.

We’re all architects of that future; burdened by the responsibility of building it. A future that will be fuelled by technology, data, collaboration, and good old-fashioned creative thinking.

We’re all architects of that future

So, we may ask - and be asked - what exactly will the future hold? And our answer will always be: Whatever we want it to be.

The future will be whatever those that dare to dream, to create, to invent, to question, to analyse and to think, decide it will be.

The future is certainly not Google-able. But it is buildable.  So, let’s crack on.

Where we’re going, we don’t need roads

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EE switched on the UK’s first 5G network on May 30th, heralding a new era of superfast connectivity. But what does it mean?  In the future, these are the kind of bandwidths required to fuel smart cities, to pick up the pace on the glitchy IoT, to push on cloud gaming and live movie streaming, and to make a reality of autonomous driving. And right now, download speeds are already 10x faster than 4G (on average 510Mbps according to The Verge), meaning we can explore the possibility of turning DOOH into a network of connected content portals (download speeds will mean that instead of taking over an hour to download a movie, it will take just 35 seconds, or just 8 seconds to download two seasons of a boxset).

Low latency (the time-lapse in which a device and mobile tower exchange data) will bring about a real revolution to the AR world, which in turn will augment the DOOH landscape. We’re already seeing this starting to happen with partnerships between Nexus Studios, Samsung, the Dallas Cowboys and AT&T who have rolled out the world’s first jaw-dropping AR Cloud activations; mapping the digital world over the physical world to build all-new experiences.

And with that revolution will come a sizeable improvement in location data. Service providers will be building and installing multiple antenna to distribute 5G, and our devices will give off multiple pings meaning game-changing improvements in location targeting.

Wild minds and a disciplined eye

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According to the recent Peter Field/IPA report ‘The crisis in creative effectiveness’, as a result of the ongoing frenzy for short-term metrics, creativity (and long-term brand building) is collapsing. And it’s something we all see every day. Field states that ‘we have arrived in an era where award-winning creativity typically brings little or no effectiveness advantage’.

Advertising has forgotten how to have fun. We’re an industry of privilege, in that we are paid to build real-world emotional responses between brands and people. That’s the long and short of it. And OOH especially should be fun! Of late however, we have seen a demand for skewing towards chasing hard short-term metric after hard short-term metric.

So it’s time to change. Because the short-term and the long-term doesn’t have to be an either/or choice. And we know that 85% of CMOs believe that creativity and big ideas build brands and create emotional connections that will deliver long-term brand growth, yet only half of these CMOs think the industry is doing this well.

OOH especially should be fun!

And the reams of evidence supporting creativity as the greatest effectiveness tool should be ignored at every brand's peril. And that doesn’t just mean ‘do more special builds’, it means applying more creative thinking to everything we do in the quest for solutions that resonate with real people.

Great creative thinking is what decides the winners in this business of brands – across all disciplines. Whether in unearthing beautiful human insights, that in turn inform tight and powerful strategies, that then provide a platform from which to fire beautifully crafted and focused concepts. Whatever the area of business, 2020 will find us learning to value true creative thinking again (and giving people space and time to do this), not as a ‘nice to have’ but rather to reframe it as non-negotiable hygiene factor.

Because *gulp*, not everything that counts can be counted.

Data Revolutions

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We are swimming in almost infinite data lakes. And the key to staying afloat is understanding exactly what data we are using, why we are using it, and how we are using it. For example, using only one source of data in planning location-based campaigns is never a good idea. Our data strategy, for example, is based on the principle of ‘no single point of truth’.

We already use 33 different location data vendors and ingest, fuse and overlay these in multiple combinations to create the very best solution for each campaign. And this is only going to increase and evolve.

The key to staying afloat is understanding exactly what data we are using

The world leaves digital footprints as deep pools of data sets, many of which exist outside of what we consider the norm (weather/temp/traffic etc.) in advertising activation. But it’s not just about turbocharging targeting, we will see the ongoing shift towards using data to derive exciting insights and forge new ways to interpret and apply these findings. After all, everything happens somewhere, so, therefore, using location as the lens to examine various data sets and extrapolate insight is the ultimate in understanding true human behaviour.

Data is going nowhere. So, if you can’t get out of it, get into it.

No brand is an island

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We’re seeing this happen everywhere, for example, auto manufacturers are brokering deep partnerships with major global tech companies (and academic STEM research facilities such as MIT) to pioneer new products and evolutions in this ever-shifting marketplace, e.g., Toyota + Microsoft // Nissan + NASA // Jaguar Land Rover + Waymo // BMW + IBM. To win the future, we have to forge strategic partnerships.

For OOH, the possibilities are vast. We are perhaps the only channel that has the opportunity to truly build innovation into solutions by applying technology and thinking from other disciplines; engineering, robotics, 3D volumetric display, AR, visual search, data, gesture control, haptics, facial recognition, voice search, ad infinitum.

To win the future, we have to forge strategic partnerships

We can’t give away all our secrets, but we’re already playing hard in this space and have relationships with multiple tech start-ups, content providers, data providers, developers and creative tech studios, with many more to follow next year.

This collaborative trend will continue to playout in 2020 and beyond, in ways we haven’t even dreamed of yet.

Rise of the machines

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Programmatic has been the talking point of the OOH industry for the past few years. But has anyone delivered it? Not yet.

So, let’s do a little myth-busting: If you Google ‘Programmatic OOH’ the search results page will be populated with ‘industry-first’ press releases with varying degrees of legitimacy. At its core, the reason for this is that programmatic means different things for different people - meaning that ‘industry-firsts’ are more evolution than finish-line.

2020 will see our approach to programmatic continue to develop and evolve

Programmatic OOH to many is the vision of bringing real-time bidding to the table - where a client can bid for an audience on a marketplace. This is NOT something that the industry is currently able to deliver - there is no widely accepted real-time audience reporting metric that can support the weight of this and any purported marketplaces are either limited in inventory access or have a human intervention to make them run (often both).

2020 will see our approach to programmatic continue to develop and evolve; a very simple story of DOOH, only when you need it, triggered by agreed data parameters. 2020 will also see the continued development of this programmatic dream playing out to varying degrees across the entire global industry.

DOOH the right thing

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One of OOH’s greatest strengths (existing in the physical and non-skippable world), also means that as an industry, we must continue working towards sustainable solutions for brands in the out-of-home space.

UK media owners are developing extraordinary solutions for advertisers, and the roll-out of products with a long-term outlook towards minimising impact to the planet should, of course, be applauded and utilised.

As an industry, we must continue working towards sustainable solutions

2020 will see us all looking to disciplines that exist outside of OOH and advertising, for it is there that we will find the most meaningful of partnerships, solutions, and innovations with real tangible purpose.

Explorations into synthetic bioluminescent lighting, alternative energy sources, pollution-eating algae, reflective inks, kinetic energy transfer, and many more will evolve quickly - driven by client and consumer demand, and our innate desire to invent responsible long-term solutions within our industry.

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By Claire Kimber, Group Innovation Director, Posterscope

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