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Creating a Real Impression

Steve Bernard , Insight Manager, Primesight   |   23rd July 2018

Advertising is of course the Art of Persuasion. The investment in transmitting a message needs to have a clarity of purpose which attracts attention, communicates a proposition and makes an impression that either effects change or reinforces behaviour.

The opportunity to send messages changes constantly with the evolution of technology and community, which has led to the explosion of personalised communication through online media over the past decade. But in the rush to embrace the new, many have forgotten the well-learnt lessons of the past; the omnipresent truth is that how the message is received is different from and, I would contend, more influential than how it is sent.

Three psychological effects illustrate this need for clients and planners to refocus their own attention, while the findings by Primesight through our Big Impression tracking study are simultaneously indicating what this could mean for the venerable OOH advertising channel

Firstly, and often forgotten, is the importance of ‘cultural imprinting’. Kevin Simler explains in his 2014 paper, ‘Ads Don’t Work That Way’, that cultural imprinting is how brands change the landscape of cultural meanings through their messaging, which in turn affects how we are perceived due to our use of such brands – for example, using an Apple iPhone ‘says’ something about you. Further, for these perceptions to take hold, everyone must know about the product and know that they know about what its wider cultural meanings are. To achieve this in the recipient requires a broadcast media; one must see the message and know that others in his or her peer group have also seen it. Indeed, everyone must know that everyone else knows it— and know that they know that they know it... and so on – a sort of ‘knowledge feedback loop’.

By its personal and fragmented nature, online simply does not deliver this cultural imprinting. Because the advert is consumed in the bubble of one-to-one personalised communication, the ‘knowledge feedback loop’ cannot take place, while an open public facing communication channel such as OOH is perfect for creating this powerful impression. Since OOH’s origins, it has been, and continues to be, a constant backdrop to nearly all our daily journeys through life.

At Primesight we have been measuring the most-seen OOH campaigns through the Big Impression study every for the past 9 months. Working alongside our partners at Opinium, 2,000 respondents are contacted every fortnight to ascertain which campaigns garnered the highest recall. The most recalled brands – such as McDonald’s, Sky & BT – have generally invested more heavily than the average, and consequently created a powerful cultural imprint. We have also identified an additional uplift in recall for campaigns that are linked to key cultural sporting events, such as Sky Premier League in August 2017, and BT Sport Ashes last winter. These examples, among others, reaffirm the connection between impressions received and their cultural significance.

Secondly, we were reminded by Rory Sutherland of the importance of ‘Honest Signalling’. He says “we have been in thrall to a Silicon Valley idea of what advertising is…the whole purpose of advertising being to deliver a message from a source to a recipient, regardless of the context in which it’s delivered or with anything to do with the nature of the content itself, and you deliver that message as accurately and cost-efficiently as possible”. Rory’s analogy then involved a hotel doorman and the consequences of his proposed absence. In this case, the approach would remove the hotel doorman and replace him with an automatic door-opening mechanism in a drive for greater efficiency. What would be missed however are the numerous other, and arguably more important, functions provided by the doorman, such as presenting an image of the hotel, signalling a secure environment, etc. Moreover, honest signalling is the antithesis of the ‘Silicon Valley’ view of what advertising is, i.e. you wouldn’t invest large sums of capital on expensive advertising formats if you didn’t care about the reaction to the message on the part of the audience, and much of this reaction is determined by the context in which the message is received.

The OOH channel has long been perceived as a trustworthy platform, as its very public and physical presence bestows the messages displayed upon it with an aura of trust and respectability – as recorded since the 1970’s ‘People Like Posters’ survey and more recently in 2014 in the Outdoor Media Centre ‘Power of 5’ proposition. It provides the impression of an open, totally transparent, and honest message in which a brand is secure enough about its future to invest in a real estate based communication. The established partnerships between local authorities, transit companies and telephony operators with outdoor media owners in the incorporation of OOH products has magnified this positioning of trust. The recent development of InLink kiosks in partnership with BT is a great example of this as millions of public users also trust the Wifi, search, mobile charging and free calls inextricably linked to the physical presence of an advertising screen.

Finally, we see that the power of context has created significant difficulties for online advertisers, whose ads have been placed within content that jars with, or indeed entirely disenfranchises, its audience; this is a missed opportunity for the powerful psychological influence that contextual content can provide when harnessed effectively.

Changing technology has opened up alternative opportunities for harnessing context through the development of flexibly addressable digital OOH screens. 

Messages can be delivered that align to specific audiences, behaviours and mindsets, and delivered according to a range of triggers including time of day, day of the week, or personalised data sets.

Unsurprisingly, some of the most technological based companies have been quickest at spotting this Omnicom’s OOH specialist agency, Talon, has published a collection of research conducted into their contextually relevant campaigns delivered on both digital and classic OOH sites. Out of the many examples highlighted, the creative campaigns delivered by Google stand out. Crucially, Google recognise the importance of delivering relevant and, above all, meaningful messages to a broadcast audience. Google began their investment in OOH in 2011 with the ‘Voice Search’ campaign, and research undertaken by MGOMD and JCDecaux showed that search increased by 70% during the the campaign as a result. The campaign harnessed classic OOH sites and the creative featured locations spelt out phonetically. This was followed in 2013 by executions on digital sites for the Google Search App, and used thousands of pieces of unique real-time data. The bus-shelter screens which were utilised for the campaign became ‘smart’ and anticipated consumer needs in those specific areas. The data was used so that the screens would then serve the directions to nearby locations which were of interest to passers-by. The campaign carried on throughout 2014 and was truly a ground-breaking OOH execution. Locational smart-messages were shown to drive action; in post-campaign research, over half of respondents exposed to the campaign felt more positively towards Google as a brand, the perception of Google as ‘innovative’ increased by 11%, and 1 in 5 respondents had downloaded the app as a result of seeing the campaign (Talon/MGOMD/Google). Google have since delivered contextually relevant copy on digital sites where they have long-term holds, such as JCDecaux’s impressive Old Street roundabout site. Interestingly, the research that has been undertaken into these campaigns has also focused on what contextual elements are the most useful in bolstering effectiveness; OOH relevant to your ‘activity’ (e.g. where to get your morning coffee) increased metrics by 12%, OOH relevant to your location (e.g. ‘Hello London’) increased brand metrics by 9%, and relevant to time of day (e.g. traffic/weather reports) increased brand metrics by 8% (Talon/OMD/JCDecaux/Google).

The big tech companies themselves recognise the importance of adding layers of context and meaning to their branding, and understanding the power this has on how consumers perceive their brand. Moreover, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have all utilised the medium to deliver contextually relevant campaigns.

The Oreo Eclipse campaign perfectly captured the moment and created a unique shared experience. The campaign was viewed on video 20 million times and generated 6,000 tweets, whilst YoY sales of Oreo rose by 59% (PHD/Talon/Grand Visual). The fact that it’s quite the opposite of highly targeted, personalised content is the reason it works so well. In raising awareness of the Oreo Eclipse, PHD had bought cover-wraps in News UK publication The Sun. The campaign combined context with mass cultural imprinting, as did the campaign for News UK, which innovatively used Digital OOH in one of the best examples of contextually relevant OOH campaigns of recent years. ‘Tournamental’ ran throughout the UEFA European Championships held in France during the summer of 2016 and involved the creation and delivery of real-time commentary for adverts across more than 700 digital OOH screens. Pulse Creative, The Sun’s in-house agency, wrote the headlines as puns such as “Enjoy the Reds in Bordeaux”. Many of the headlines were specifically relevant to events which had just taken place, so when Iceland had just knocked out England from the tournament the screens immediately broadcast the message, “There’s No Iceland 2-for-1”. By the end of the tournament over 5,000 headlines had been delivered. The ‘Tournamental’ campaign reached millions of people and won four Creative OOH awards as well as a prestigious Cannes OOH Lions award.

Twitter won the 2017 OOH Lions Grand Prix thanks to its innovative utilisation of the medium. The U.S. campaign featured no copy, just hashtags and Twitter logos from news and pop culture. One execution showed Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump staring out over New York City. It is encouraging to see a creative usage of the medium – capturing a specific moment in time during the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election using, in this case, classic OOH billboards. This once again showed again that the most venerable advertising platforms can deliver innovative, popular, and award-winning campaigns for the newest companies on the planet.

Our medium is constantly changing and there will always be a focus on new research and better resultant insight, but attracting attention is an old art and mistakes can be made when we forget the lessons we have already learnt.

Our focus on The Big Impression will continue to provide a unique insight into the public perception of brands and products that want to create a real impression through public fame in our collective lives.

"As an industry, I believe, we have forgotten the power of repetition. Effective communication isn't small. It isn't cheap. It isn't once."
"Advertising isn’t supposed to be private. It’s supposed to be overheard, shared, stumbled across and discovered."
"And then there’s advertising’s past. The intrusive, inflexibile and mute billboards. They feel like throwbacks to the old way of doing things. A flat image with an unyielding rule that the consumer can take in no more than eight words (unless they’re Economist readers). How boring. How old school. Until you remember 2015's ‘Shot on iPhone 6’ campaign. Simple, traditional and utterly un-missable pieces of art in the urban landscape."
"Out of Home is the oldest medium of all There’s still huge power in the public message – the power of the public comment. It’s a big thing – it’s why people get married in front of an audience of 150; it gives a public sense of commitment."
"We've chosen to use digital to make everything more efficient...but we've forgotten how to explore and discover. It's a loss of serendipity and we've lost a lot of the humanity. We're becoming very reliant upon digital and the internet to make us incredibly efficient and we're losing out."
"The beauty of OOH is that it can double as a TV screen, a social feed, a camera, a vending machine, a download site, or a purchase point."
"OOH is constantly evolving, and its ability to integrate so brilliantly with new technology is one of its main strengths."
"Media changes, driven by digitisation, have left consumers facing a tyranny of choice—yet OOH is a channel that can still deliver huge audiences, and can increasingly do so in creative and engaging ways."
"The Out of Home sector has been tremendously resilient throughout the recessionary years, showing consistent growth driven by its fundamental benefits. In an ever-fragmenting media landscape, you can still reach pretty much the entire population, all at the same time."
"Out of Home is booming right now: OOH is the most ubiquitous media – you can’t turn the page, change the channel or switch it off, and Out of Home continues to integrate itself brilliantly with other new and innovative technologies."
"Posters decorate the world "
"Speed of change is all around us and no more so than in the rate at which advertising investment in traditional posters is being transitioned to include a far more flexible Out of Home canvas; the digital poster."
"I love OOH because the diversity of opportunities makes it a realistic option for almost any client. Add to this the ever growing possibilities for new innovation and it’s a media channel that is truly exciting to both agencies and clients alike."
"As DOOH becomes more “digital,” it becomes more agile, richer, and better able to play its part in a big idea. As a plugged in medium, DOOH can be the active element in a multi-layered campaign. It can create buzz, break news, invite interaction, and help to drive content and discussions online. Great DOOH campaigns are ones that sit comfortably within the wider brand strategy and capture the imagination."
"By its very nature, Out of Home’s remoteness from the consumer living room, from the office, and from the home computer, has made it a natural bedfellow of mobile marketing."
"OOH inhabits a wonderful space in which we benefit from a rich heritage of memorable, iconic campaigns and a truly exciting future unfolding before us. A broadcast medium that just keeps getting better."
"DOOH is a really interesting storytelling medium, beyond advertising. It allows you to touch and feel and interact in a way no other medium does. That's the real beauty of it, and usually overlooked"
"Show me any brief, for any client and any campaign and I guarantee that OOH will be able to have a justifiable role to play as part of the media solution. That role maybe big or small; local or national, classic, digital or both, large format, small format or anything in between... but it will be justifiable and worthwhile. There isn’t any other medium that can replicate that claim, or indeed come anywhere near doing so."
"London’s very large public transport network carries a great deal of OOH advertising. As a result, London alone has 170,000 advertising sites, more than 40 per cent of the national total. This makes London the most valuable city for OOH advertising in Europe and among the most important in the world."
"Digital OOH networks are multi-sensory and with the development of touch technology things are moving fast. Stimulating the senses more creatively generates social shares, great PR and awards."
"Central London will undergo a transformation and cities like Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds will get even brighter and more connected"
"It makes sense for the most welcomed and least intrusive media to deliver presence for brands interacting through the media"
"OOH remains the flexible canvas for which a guaranteed audience is never too far away"
"OOH may be the oldest medium, yet it has shown remarkable resilience in reinventing itself"
"Smarter brands are contextualising their ad messaging, reaching a target audience when it matters most and can change behaviour"
"Poster sites really are the last true broadcast medium capable of near universal reach"
"Immediacy, targeting and excitement are what DOOH can offer that other media can't - its just very very cool.The opportunities are endless"
"The combination of classic and DOOH should be an intoxicating mix for any marketing director"
"Out of Home is an accountable, measurable and effective media for advertisers"
"Reaching people in the right place, at the right time is still Out of Home’s biggest strength"
"Posters are the purest and most effective form of communication"
"I would advise marketers using OOH not to see a poster as a Wikipedia entry, think of it as a piece of art"
"OOH engages hard to reach audiences on the move with inspiring and innovative communications"
"Using data to plan OOH enhances campaign performance by up to 200%"
"London is the most valuable city for OOH advertising... and among the most important in the world "
"Super premium digital Out of Home is one of the quickest ways to get into the conversation and make your brand famous"
"For a brand to live, it needs to appeal not only to the people who buy it, but also to the people who know about it "
"Media isn’t about the number of impressions you make. Media is about the power of the impression you make."
"In advertising, we have the power to change minds, change beliefs and change the world"
"DOOH offers deeper engagement than other media, more of a story and feedback"