Heading the elephants off at the pass

I attended a conference this week where the thorny topic of ad blocking received significant airtime. And no wonder, given what we heard.

Outdoor advertising: placing the right campaigns in the most appropriate locations is key
Outdoor advertising: placing the right campaigns in the most appropriate locations is key

The topic appears to be a real elephant in the room for the online industry, and also, so we were told, potentially a whole herd of stampeding elephants for the world of mobile. 

All manner of worrying stats were bandied around concerning the percentage of consumers in various global markets already using blockers or filters to ensure that their consumption of online content is not interrupted or otherwise sullied by irritating ads.

Scary stuff indeed, and the debate continued around how screen convergence would also ultimately make this a serious threat to television ad revenue. Of course, as a so-called marketing professional working in the thoroughly offline world of outdoor advertising, none of this need worry me.

For years we've been rightly promoting our medium as one delivering ever-increasing audiences that are exposed to the advertising, whether they want it or not. But to blithely assume that this is set to continue might be a mistake.

In a world where consumers are more in control of the content they consume, and are apparently increasingly able to evade brands' lovingly crafted advertising, maybe it's naïve to assume the effect of OOH will remain unchanged.

Admittedly, there are no physical blockers we can introduce to blank out the panels and screens to which we are all exposed in airports, rail stations, or on the side of the road. But surely there's more to successful communication than "opportunities to see"?

If we're increasingly filtering the messages we process online, then we should probably recognise the risk that consumers could potentially take less from future outdoor campaigns they pass – either because these individuals are actively involved with their mobile device, or because they find the advertising irrelevant or mundane

This isn't happening yet, but I'd suggest it's incumbent on those of us who work in the OOH business to do all we can to head the elephants off at the pass. Or something. 

Yes, we need to continue to make our portfolio as eye-catching and well-presented as possible. But we also need to use the wealth of data we have to place the right campaigns in the most appropriate locations.

We need to extend the capacity of our digital screens to deliver advertising that is relevant in terms of both time and place. JCDecaux’s digital Tesco network driven by CAPTAIn software is a great example of this.

And we need to ensure that our mobile devices augment and amplify the OOH advertising experience, rather than "blocking" it.

Steve Cox is marketing director at JCDecaux Airport UK

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