Dubai, London, New York, Paris, Shanghai – and then some – all these metros are considered to be iconic and a good representation of state-of-the-art cities. The many commonalities found in these cities include those bright and often mesmerising digital out-of-home (DOOH) displays. In this age of disruptive innovation, DOOH is not only a key communication platform, it is also a symbol of development and success. Pakistan too, is embarking on this media trend.
Traditionally, OOH was seen as a support medium to the brand communication on TV. This has changed and OOH has gone beyond being visually interesting to becoming an interactive and engaging medium. According to research by Magna Global, DOOH is 400% more effective in delivering the message compared to traditional OOH and 72% more exciting than TV. Clearly, the entire value chain of brand, media, consumer and environment is evolving and the old communication methods of one-size-fits-all with TV driving the value chain, may not be relevant anymore.
Most people spend 70% of their waking lives outside their homes and connected to their smartphone. As media specialists, our job is to find meaningful ways of connecting with these consumers on the go. In my opinion, even conventional research questions related to media consumption need to change to keep pace with new technologies and consumer habits. According to research undertaken by BrandScience, over 50% of consumers believe direct interaction through OOH screens have a huge potential for shopping, and 70% appreciate the convenience of these screens.
Recently, I visited a Sephora store in Dubai and although I did not register for updates, trust me, they stalked me on my Facebook and Google pages for two weeks after that visit. My store visit was tracked from the mall WiFi indicating my interest and hence the bombardment of offers online!
Similarly, the technology exists to gather data on consumer media and buying choices and then use it effectively on DOOH. Research done by Kinetic has shown that consumers expect to receive personalised communication that is relevant to what they are doing. For brands, maximum Return On Investment (ROI) is possible only when consumers buy the product or service via a digital screen or their smartphone; in other words, when contextually relevant advertising drives them to make the purchase for instant gratification.
Although this kind of result may be far off for Pakistani consumers, wherever there is value and convenience, consumers are quick to adapt. Historically, Pakistan has leapfrogged with respect to adopting new technologies, although, it must be said that Pakistan’s media industry in general, as well as brands tend to be reluctant in embracing change despite the opportunities that exist for any brand brave enough to adopt these digital trends.
DOOH enables brands to target localised consumers. The messaging can be tailored according to the time of day, weather conditions, business challenges and other trending factors.
We have also observed that consumers in different geographical locations have different lifestyles and media consumption habits and here DOOH becomes even more relevant when it comes to targeting culturally-different audiences. Apart from location, context is another factor that makes a communication more engaging and relevant. Context is defined as weather conditions, time, culture or the current trending topic in the area. Furthermore, the brand challenges are different in different regions – hence the need for localised communication solutions. With DOOH, it is possible to create bespoke communication campaigns that are both targeted and cost-effective.
Given the recent installation of DOOH screens in Lahore and Karachi, with other cities expected to follow, this may be the appropriate time to evaluate the effectiveness of DOOH for the key stakeholders in Pakistan’s media industry.
DOOH enables brands to target localised consumers. The messaging can be tailored according to the time of day, weather conditions, business challenges and other trending factors. To maximise ROI, advertisers need to provide in-depth and clear briefs to their media agencies with respect to the business challenges and the goals they want to achieve. Most importantly, content for DOOH cannot be the same as what is aired on the TVC; it has to be tailored according to the size and location of the DOOH. Regular in-depth research should be commissioned to gain a superior understanding of how consumers interact with the digital world.
Brands must adopt a more collaborative approach with their media agencies to achieve what Sir Martin Sorell describes as ‘horizontal’ solutions. Different media have different efficacies and each one needs to be leveraged based on the objective to be achieved. The thought process must begin with the brand challenge and then move to the medium rather than the other way around. To maximise ROI, the communication solution must be neutral. If, for example, a brand is targeting an audience of 14 to 24 year-olds, wastage can be avoided by targeting OOH and DOOH assets located near colleges and places where young people hangout. Handholding consumers from one media to the other until the moment of truth is only possible via collaboration across the media, from electronic, digital and OOH – as well as creative.
The relevant government authorities need to be exposed to global DOOH trends and understand how they contribute not only to the financial development of cities, but to the aesthetics and experience of a city. Policies need to be developed to ensure this medium is safe. Soon, Lahore will have digital pole signs on multiple roads, and it is important to understand that a medium that is engaging on M.M. Alam Road, where the traffic is slow, may not provide the same experience on roads with fast moving traffic. DOOH comes in a wide range of sizes, features and designs and permission must be provided accordingly.
DOOH is an expensive investment compared to regular billboards. Until last year, there was reluctance among media owners to invest in DOOH. This is changing and media owners are investing; however, DOOH media owners need to enhance their understanding of the possibilities the medium holds – and this requires investment in HR because like with other media, the investment must be based on due diligence. Questions about which brands are best suited to using a DOOH platform are even more relevant as clients demand more structured, rationalised and transparent media solutions.
Finally, all stakeholders must understand that consumers want a seamless advertising connection; they do not necessarily dislike advertising, but they want it to be contextually relevant, authentic, engaging and purposeful.
Ahsan Sheikh is CEO, Kinetic.