A Media TrilOOHgy Part 2: A billboard by any name would look as sweet.

Why all the fuss about the correct way to categorise Out Of Home media? Isn’t a billboard just a billboard? Of course Shakespeare said it best … “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” You just have to believe that David Ogilvy and Shakespeare would really have got along. After all, they were both masters of long copy communication.

In terms of reporting adspend, the benefits of creating a more inclusive definition of OOH are obvious and significant. But is there anything to be gained from these machinations in terms of the way we actually use the medium?

The AMASA textbook Nuts n Bolts of Media Planning defines Out Of Home as “essentially any type of advertising that reaches the consumer while he or she is outside the home and on the move”. This definition certainly qualifies as “inclusive” but, if I may lean once more on the Bard, therein lies the rub. It’s too inclusive.

If I choose to read my newspaper on a park bench somewhere, does it suddenly convert from being print to being OOH? When I listen to radio in my car, should that suddenly be classified as Out Of Home Media exposure just because I happen to be in the OOH Zone?

Unlike other media messaging OOH advertising is, or should be, created exclusively to be consumed in the OOH environment where is powers of persuasion do not require the explicit consent of the consumer. That’s its primary point of difference from other media formats. That’s what we have to teach a generation of digital natives who think that, when it comes to information and creative content, a building wrap is really just a very large website.

The global revolution in consumer behaviour and media consumption is challenging many of the accepted fundamentals of media strategy. The singularity of the couch-bound primetime TV audience, or the car-bound drive-time radio listener, has been replaced by multi-platform access to the “always on” media consumer.

That’s why the focus on high reach in media has been replaced by a focus on thematic message relevance (the content of the message as it relates to the consumers’ situation) and decision interval relevance (the timing of message exposure at critical points either in terms of product consumption or product purchase).

It’s not enough to simply drop your TV imagery onto an OOH format and hope that consumers will make the connection. In order to maximise the value of communicating with consumers in the OOH Zone you need to deploy messaging that is specifically created for the time and circumstance in which the consumer will interact with it.

Perhaps the most futile creative indulgence of all is for advertisers to take a print ad and use it in the OOH Zone without adjusting the layout and copy elements. Consumers simply don’t have the time to try and absorb multiple communication points and long copy. It has long been held that the most important guideline for effective advertising on a billboard, and other OOH formats for that matter, is to ensure that the message is single-minded and succinct.

One of the most compelling studies in this regard was conducted by the University of Alberta for Evian Water. It was discovered that, for every extra message included in the billboard, there was a corresponding decline in effectiveness for the campaign. Awareness declined from 41,1% for the single-message board to 29,2%, for the 5-message board.

When it comes to advertising in the OOH Zone, more often than not, less is more. And that is something that even David Ogilvy knew but Shakespeare would never have understood.

Triloohgy Part 2