1. ROADSIDE DIGITAL
This year will see roadside digital finally take off. A handful of digital 48-sheet sites are already up and running in London, but all the major outdoor companies have ambitious plans to expand this number.
JCDecaux promises to roll out a 20-strong network of 48-sheet sites in London from spring onwards. Digital LED screens offer superior quality images and far greater flexibility when updating campaigns.
But these sites don't come cheap - they are upwards of £100,000 apiece. JCDecaux's chief executive Jeremy Male says: "Outdoor is the fastest-growing medium after online and with people spending more time out of the home, it makes sense to invest in visually appealing and exciting projects."
Others are following suit. Clear Channel has one large digital screen on London's Western Avenue and hopes to build on this base. UK managing director Rob Atkinson says: "We've used this site to check if the technology works, if advertisers are happy with it, and if there are any planning implications. We aim to have a minimum of 10 digital screens in place by the end of the year and hope for 20."
Titan Outdoor has a large digital screen on Cromwell Road, with plans for more, and Streetbroadcast last year launched its 25-strong national StreetLive network, consisting of 360-degree circular digital screens.
2. PASTELESS POSTING
The days of pasting up posters are numbered, as 2008 heralds the arrival of dry, "pasteless" posting, with synthetic, recyclable posters being introduced.
These offer a number of advantages over conventional posting. For a start, they come in one piece and are simply clipped into place, reducing posting time by up to 25 minutes on a 48-sheet. This means an estimated 15% more display time at the start of a campaign.
Dry-posting also means an end to creases on posters and promises far clearer images than conventional posting has provided. This could arguably prove more important on a national basis than the arrival of digital, which will initially be focused in London.
Dwight Thomas, head of media for Nexus/H, says: "Outside London, the demand for the cut-through that digital provides is not as great.
"But the enhanced quality that dry-posting brings will be significant, as the quality of signage away from the capital is not always that good."
3. AVIATION: SEAT-BACK TABLES
Air travel delivers a captive audience for advertisers. For the majority of passengers not blessed with a window seat, the seat-back in front of them is where their eyes rest for anything up to 14 hours on long-haul flights.
This extensive dwell-time is being exploited by InviseoMedia, which has launched advertising on the reverse of seat-back tables.
Chief executive Dominic Stead says: "Ad avoidance is one of the biggest issues in the industry because there is so much advertising around. We are providing an old-world solution to a new-world problem."
The company, which started working with Ryanair in 2007, claims significant success: 28% spontaneous recognition from passengers when asked about a recent Sony Ericsson campaign.
The techniques should shift up a gear in 2008, when a decision is expected on whether to allow mobile phone use on flights.
Mobile phones will be used for data rather than speech, by providing a response mechanism on ads that allows people to request information on the product advertised. Stead predicts that once phone use has been granted, Ryanair will quickly introduce it on its flights.
4. PROOF OF POSTING
Trust is a wonderful thing, but a bit of reassurance doesn't go amiss. To this end, both JCDecaux and Clear Channel are launching proof-of-posting schemes, adding an extra degree of accountability to outdoor.
JCDecaux Live was launched in November last year and will be extended to all large-format sites through 2008. The system relies on the bill poster taking a picture of the completed site and then uploading this to a central website where clients can verify the poster is up.
Clear Channel's WAVe (wireless activity verification) system uses mobile phones to scan a unique barcode that allows the operations team to confirm posting. Introduced last November, the system is being rolled out nationwide across 50,000 Adshel panels and billboards.
Both companies' systems incorporate photographs, meaning that issues of damage to the site or obstructions can be dealt with.
The idea of audiences interacting with outdoor sites is gaining momentum. A number of operators now offer interactive capabilities based on a range of technologies and the number of campaigns making use of these facilities looks set to grow in 2008.
Primesight has launched its Vuetooth division in association with Bluepod Media and Pearl & Dean at 55 cinema locations. The service, which enables mobile phone users to interact with posters via a Bluetooth connection, was incorporated into a Central Office of Information campaign for the RAF.
This month sees the national roll-out of an interactive KFC campaign on selected Clear Channel sites. The posters carry a code number that mobile users can text to receive services ranging from mobile vouchers for redemption in restaurants to GPS maps of KFC branches.
Meanwhile, JCDecaux now has a whole division - called Innovate - dedicated to the use of touch screens in outdoor advertising.
A number of companies are beginning to incorporate elements of experiential marketing into outdoor campaigns and the popularity of this approach is growing.
Andy Moug, managing director of Titan Outdoor, says: "Experiential marketing used to be something you bolted onto the back-end of a campaign; now it's recognised as being of huge value."
Recent experiential highlights from Titan include live wet shaves at London's Liverpool Street Station to celebrate the launch of the Sweeney Todd movie, and a large robotic footballer at Victoria Station.
The advantage of experiential is that it can generate word of mouth that poster campaigns may fail to excite. "We've had clips of events uploaded to YouTube, which is clear proof that it works," says Moug.
Transport arenas are prime sites for experiential, so expect airports and stations to play host to more of this activity this year.
7. CROSS-TRACK PROJECTION (XTP)
It has been a while coming, but this year will herald the arrival of the long-anticipated cross-track projection on the London Underground.
The service will provide HD-quality digital images in a widescreen format. Health and safety trials were carried out over three months at Euston last year and the engineering challenges are considerable.
Tim Bleakley, managing director of CBS Outdoor, says: "We have to adapt the ceiling to carry a projection unit that weighs roughly the same as a Mini Cooper, although we are in the process of developing a lighter unit."
XTP should arrive in Q2 this year. Bleakley adds: "Our first commercial pack should be 75 units delivering 150 scenes - two each - on a 10 or 20-second rotation, depending on the time of day."
The benefits of online booking for local advertising are in the offing for 2008, according to Titan Outdoor managing director Andy Moug.
He claims his company is working on an online system that will allow local advertisers to view the outdoor inventory in their area and book the sites they need.
"This will mean a shift away from the current focus on selling national packages," says Moug. "We can't keep leaning on national advertisers; we need other routes to market."
9. DIGITAL ON BUSES
The use of moving digital images on buses is not new: Yell.com ran a high-profile campaign on London buses in 2006.
However, CBS Outdoor has promised a significantly enhanced offering on London buses for 2008, with both sides of the vehicle illuminated.
The "T-side" will play host to static digital images, while the longer "Superside" will offer moving digital images - larger and of better quality than those used in the Yell campaign.
CBS Outdoor is looking at two competing technologies to provide this service, which should roll out in the second half of the year.
10. HALO LIGHTING
Providing the perfect frame for a poster is now within the grasp of image-conscious brands, with this year's roll-out of halo lighting.
Both JCDecaux and Clear Channel are offering illuminated LED frames, the idea being that clients select a hue that matches their own brand livery to "personalise" the site.
Clear Channel Outdoor's system, available on its Mega 6 sites in March and April, offers 11 million hues to choose from.
JC Decaux's system offers 16.7 million colours that can be varied by day-part, with the frame breaking down into 52 sections to combine blocks of colour.
Read more from the Media Week Outdoor Special
1. ROADSIDE DIGITAL