Claire Kimber
Claire Kimber 18 February 2021

Actionable Futures and Predictions for Out of Home in 2021

“The future isn’t Google-able.” That’s what we said in our 2020 predictions. Turns out we nailed that with 100% accuracy. When we published our predictions 100 years ago in December 2019, we – and the rest of the planet – had no concept of what was coming and the impact it would have on us all; the terrible human tragedy felt by millions across the globe.

We were reminded that human movement is the touchpaper of global pandemics; where we go, our viruses go too.  And with that ferocious reminder, everything paused. Business paused. Movement paused. People paused. And OOH paused.

But during that pause, we started to think. Really think. We had to react to the present, but we also had to prepare for the next – whatever guise that might take. And so we have effectively been making our predictions for 2021 since March 2020.

They are based on bending to match changing consumer behaviours and movements, on innovating solutions that address new client needs, on applying clarity to the abstract, on using creativity to navigate uncertainty, and on applying frontier thinking to a new world.

For our 2020 predictions, we also said that whilst the future wasn’t Google-able it was definitely buildable. Seems we got that right too.

What follows are the actionable futures and predictions for Out of Home that we’ve been building since March 2020.

The Local Know-How

“A rapid transformation in the way we shop is changing the fortunes and reviving the culture of local commerce.” Anoosh Chakelian/Michael Goodier, The New Statesman Sept 2020

The physical shape of society has shifted. For many, where we live is now where we work, shop, exercise and play. And for most, our entire worlds have become smaller and decidedly local. This of course brings with it a shift in movement patterns and behaviour – we built our Mobility Index to monitor these regional fluctuations and ensure we follow audiences on these new journeys.

Whilst we can’t predict ongoing regional tiering and restrictions, we can predict with absolute certainty that the need for brands to ensure localised tonality and activity is vital. Those brands that don’t ‘go dark’ but instead go ‘hyper-relevant’ will reap the benefits of adaption in favour of reduction.

OOH Outcomes: A robust data and insight-lead approach to planning will continue bringing confidence and certainty to regionally nuanced planning and creativity.

The Enhanced Reality

“Augmented Reality has matured so rapidly that it is no longer considered an ‘emerging technology’ anymore.”  Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies 2020

Augmented Reality. It’s not new. But that’s kind of the point. We’ve been layering mobile digital realities over physical spaces/objects for some time (even longer in sci-fi but that’s a different story); we all know the Pokémon Go phenomenon and that Snapchat is vital to many (249 million daily users globally). Indeed, it has become ubiquitous and no longer an emerging technology.

And Apple have just made it even more so. With the launch of the iPhone 12, they have heralded in a new era of AR (the phone is loaded up with lidar sensors, meaning AR experiences can have much-improved quality).

Couple that with the rollout of 5G (which allows for huge volumes of data to transfer which in turn means no lag, massively improved animation quality, and superior geo-location applications), and we have a technology that is not simply a fad or gimmick; its consumer familiarity means this is now a rational business-critical expectation that offers safe and touchless interaction, is shoppable, can educate and entertain and brings consumers into a brand universe in a seamless and natural way (especially via the QR code renaissance).

OOH Outcomes: All OOH has the potential to be a networked portal system, whereby AR experiences are triggered at the physical format site.

The Bridge Between Worlds

“80% of UK adults have made more contactless payments and 24% have made more mobile wallet payments since the beginning of the nationwide lockdown in response to Covid-19.” YouGov, Aug 2020

OOH is not just posters and screens; it is a TV, a gaming console, a content portal, a path to purchase, and much more in-between – and it is the marriage between mobile and OOH that forms the critical heartbeat of that versatility. The computers we carry around with us enable in-the-moment responses… if the value exchange proposition and prompt is compelling enough.

By tethering our handsets to our OOH activity, we will see a continued acceleration of technologies that enable our advertising to be shoppable and Covid-safe.

Just as shoppable AR has become a reality for Snapchat, Adidas, Gucci, and Coty we expect further enhancements in computer vision, image recognition, contactless payments, image search, social shopping, and QR code familiarity to continue the explosion of response sub-channels within advertising.

OOH Outcomes: Shop-what-you-see! OOH brand performance will continue to grow using a suite of technologies that drive online behaviours from offline stimulus (e-commerce/interaction/search).

The New Canvas

“Two-thirds of people feel more connected and appreciative of their outdoor space and local community since lockdown.” The Mobility Mindset, Posterscope 2020

We have an almost infinite palette with which to paint all over our communities. We are in the business of attention; and so, we must adopt new ways of achieving this whilst also embracing older ways that have perhaps fallen out of fashion in favour of shiny and new.

Creative techniques, unusual formats, and surprising avenues to attention will be explored and deployed to bring brands to local streets in exciting and fun ways; look up, look down, look all around!

OOH Outcomes: Reappraising creativity and local/ambient formats as a means of enhancing traditional reach and frequency formats against a localised audience.

The On/Off Switch

“… the focus is more on brands being agile and using live data as it’s coming in to help make decisions on where to increase activity.” Kevin O’Farrell, associate vice-president, Analytic Partners May 2020

More than ever we need to provide clients with a new level of agility and flexibility for the DOOH medium. We are able to turn DOOH on and off like a light switch to ensure our clients are live when it’s the most important time for them.

The agility of our proprietary platform ECOS NOW also allows us to set up campaigns in advance, set the data trigger(s) in place, along with aspects like maximum budget to spend in a day or over a period of days so our clients can take advantage of upcoming key periods of sales.

This approach allows current and new clients to experience how DOOH can be a valuable medium to build fast awareness, to drive consumer response, and to be agile and reactive in market.

OOH Outcomes: a continued acceleration of data-driven and efficient automated buying models, developing at pace in line with market, societal, and behavioural fluctuations.

The Green Revolution

“Post-lockdown over two-thirds of Brits plan to lead a more sustainable life.” Targus’ Eco Trends Report Sept 2020

And we find ourselves at a pivotal moment in that we’ve all seen the positive environmental impact of pausing. And with that, consumer mindsets and values have changed. According to a YouGov poll taken during lockdown, a massive 71% of people in the UK were concerned about the possibility of air pollution returning to the levels we had before the lockdown.

And of course, great leaps in technology, societal transformation, and innovation are ALWAYS borne out of crisis; so, finding new ways to heal our cities and communities is needed now more than ever.

As a media channel with a tangible physical presence in public spaces, the OOH industry has a significant role to play in this and we should expect the development and prototyping of multiple green technologies over the coming months, to include infrastructure technologies that clean the air, biotechnologies that push the agenda on green, alternative inks and production processes, and recycled paper and alternative biodegradable materials.

OOH Outcomes: The construction and integration of industry-defining innovations and processes to become commonplace, not a nice-to-have.

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