Real-Time Messaging is Fun, But It Can Be So Much More reports Morag Cuddeford-Jones in Marketing Week

The number of digital outdoor sites is growing and many are adding real-time messaging to the mix. What can this deliver brands beyond the wow factor? Morag Cuddeford-Jones, Marketing Week, investigates.

According to the Outdoor Media Centre, 2013 saw digital outdoor revenues of £214m. It only takes a moment standing in London’s Piccadilly Circus to note the impact large digital screens have on passers-by as every one of the 2 million visitors passing through each week is stopped in their tracks by the 205sq m screen featuring animated Coca-Cola advertising. Brands are now adding real-time messaging in an effort to redouble that impact, but is it having the desired effect?
The use of real-time messaging varies widely, from brands capitalising on news events to real-time brand activity. Radio station LBC used digital outdoor ads in last-minute promotions of the debate it broadcast in March between UKIP’s Nigel Farage and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg. Coca-Cola capitalised on Father’s Day by driving social media content to digital out-of-home (DOOH), posting tweets hash tagged #ShareaCoke. Others have used automation to link to events. British Airways deployed tracking technologies to interrupt the creative on digital screens in Piccadilly Circus and Chiswick when one of its planes was overhead.
Merging digital screens with other media is a favourite. Many are in commuter hubs where dwell time is at its highest (an estimated 17 minutes) and several companies have tied out-of-home to experiential marketing. Danone’s flavoured water brand Volvic Juiced ran a touchable digital billboard at Bluewater Shopping Centre, with the campaign live for two weeks. Consumers could touch the screen to ‘crush’ apples that fill a bottle of juice. Players were rewarded with a free juice as well as being entered into competitions for higher value prizes.
In April JCDecaux deployed its Motion@Waterloo screen to broadcast video from a Lurpak cooking event using the brand’s new Cook’s Range, planned and booked by Posterscope and Carat. Chefs such as Valentine Warner cooked at the zone and the food was handed out to waiting passengers. The screen streamed live and dynamic content captured on the stand throughout the campaign, while commuters were encouraged to live tweet cooking tips to the screen using the hashtag #foodadventures.
Motion@Waterloo was launched in February to create the UK’s largest indoor advertising screen, at 12m wide, with launch partner Audi, using real-time content.
“The audience profile of Waterloo station was important, with a strong ABC1 representation,” says Audi head of national communications Kristian Dean. “The idea of interactive content via social media sites, Twitter and mobiles allows you to have fun and get much deeper engagement with consumers rather than just ‘shouting’ at them through traditional advertising.”

Fun seems to be the central element of brands’ real-time activity in DOOH and Coke, BA and Google all refer to these campaigns as delivering the wow factor.

Sara Dunham, BA head of retail and direct channels, says of Magic of Flying: “The hashtag #lookup was all about the wow factor and putting BA out there as a brand looking for opportunities to do things differently.” The campaign was created and bought by Ogilvy One, Posterscope and Carat, and displayed on Storm media sites.
Emma Houston, head of media at Coca-Cola Great Britain and Ireland, adds: “What digital outdoor is good at doing is creating the wow. We have to look at creating memories and achieving cut-through, and the wow factor impact lasts longer.”
Meanwhile, Google launched a pilot DOOH campaign called ‘Google Outside’ serving geotargeted search results to 100 Clear Channel bus shelters and 60 Exterion Media (formerly CBS Outdoor) Tube station sites across London. Screens adopting Google Now smartphone technology provide content tailored to location, time of day and weather. Refreshed content is delivered by Open Loop and the pilot was created by R/GA London and Google, produced by Grand Visual and planned and booked by Talon and Manning Gottlieb OMD.
Google head of media Greg Smith notes: “The aim was to provide Londoners with relevant search information in a truly magical way. That meant using digital outdoor in a way that had never been done before. The biggest reward was seeing that consumers really engaged with it.”
While these campaigns undoubtedly involve magic and fun, it can be difficult to translate their impact into hard metrics that justify the increased cost and organisational impact of running a real-time DOOH campaign. Houston notes that Coke had to involve cross-disciplinary teams to set the tweeting campaign up and ensure ‘live’ tweets were safe to broadcast.
“It required collaboration between Google, our agency partners and the media owners. It was also technically challenging.”
Coke linked hard figures to its Father’s Day campaign, noting a 5 per cent shift in spontaneous brand mentions, and that out-of-home overall delivered a 28 per cent rise in ad awareness. Google used geo-targeted survey tools to isolate brand uplift and awareness, but does not divulge figures. BA’s #lookup was deemed to be a trial and the company claims that over a million YouTube views and what Dunham calls “a serious amount of social conversation and PR” mean the campaign was a success.
Audi’s Dean, meanwhile, says the benefits of DOOH include the impact on brand perceptions. “The social media link with digital outdoor is exciting and we’ve only just scratched the surface. If we claim to be a progressive brand we’ve got to behave like that.”
As far as out-of-home’s role in the marketing mix is concerned, it is often found in close partnership with social media. BA, Lurpak and Coke rely on hashtags to deliver content to their digital screens, while Volvic’s Juiced campaign incorporates a Facebook game created by We Are Social.
“The critical thing for any real-time out-of-home activity is taking the social aspect and amplifying it,” Coke’s Houston insists.
In BA’s case, the aim was to drive viewers to, but the campaign’s impact was measured by the volume of social conversations, visits to the landing page and conversion rates.
Campaigns remain limited by the number of screens available as well as their location, with 45 per cent of all DOOH in London and 90 per cent of all digital roadside panels also in the capital. There are moves to expand availability, with Primesight putting interactive screens in cinemas and JCDecaux putting 400 digital screens in large Tesco stores across the UK.
Shopping centres and transport hubs such as bus stops and train stations are also proving fertile ground. Google’s activity with Clear Channel is part of a wider expansion that will see the company offer NFC tags in bus shelters across the UK. The introduction of mobile interactivity will take the potential of real-time push-messaging into true interactivity where consumers can download relevant, real-time information that is hyper-personalised.
It is a strategy that ticket agency Stub Hub is considering, according to its international marketing director Brian Streich.
“There are some NFC-enabled DOOH screens but they’re not prevalent yet,” he says. “I see it being the way the industry goes. In San Francisco you can interact with bus stops and we could progress to that,” he predicts. There remains much to be learned about DOOH, including ironing out what Google’s Smith terms “hiccups” in implementation. He will not elaborate, but states: “Given that we created hundreds of assets and delivered them in real time across 160 sites, working with two media owners and two systems, you can imagine hiccups occurred. But we were able to isolate the issues. It’s part of pushing the boundaries.”

Top three challenges

1. Managing the content

Delivering content to sites where DOOH can have relevance is a difficult task and many advertisers are running pilot schemes to test appropriate content against ease of delivery. One of the most popular ways to engage in real time is to enlist consumers by incorporating tweets into the ads. While hashtags such as BA’s #lookup and Coke’s #ShareaCoke easily parse relevant tweets out from social chatter, there is still a heavy human requirement to ensure these are appropriate.
“We managed 100 tweets on the real-time display over the week before Father’s Day, but at least that number again were selected to go into the filter and were rejected,” notes Emma Houston, head of media at Coca-Cola UK.

2. Managing the multichannel

No DOOH campaign exists in isolation. Whether it is generating content for the real-time display from social media or using the message to drive consumers to a landing page, real-time digital screens have real-time impacts.
Interactive tags have to consider mobile coverage, while direct response calls to action such as generating ‘click to call’ rely on call centre capacity at the right time. And the wow factor so many brands rely on in real-time DOOH must be consistent across the customer journey.

3. Managing the partners

The number of agencies involved in running a campaign can multiply exponentially as the real-time element is added. A degree of automation is possible, such as BA’s plane tracking technology, but in cases where consumer interaction and live events such as Lurpak’s Waterloo experiential project collide, multiple departments have to be involved in campaigns where parameters are constantly shifting. The advice from Google and Coca-Cola is that preparation is key.
Via: Marketing Week