“Don’t be afraid to be Out-of-Home,” said Patrick Quinn, of PQMedia in his keynote address at both the DSE and the introductory talk at this spring’s DOOH Forum. He was, of course, quoting an anonymous expert who is a member of his Global Opinion Leader Panel. That statement has rankled me ever since I first heard it back in February because it seems to contradict everything that our industry is striving for. Additionally, in Mr. Quinn’s talks, he frequently mentions that, in the U.K., Digital Out-of-Home and traditional Out-of-Home are considered one industry with one voice. Is that how the industry should be here? How do we position ourselves? Should we follow the structure of the U.K. or do we forge our own path in defining this nascent media industry? Doesn’t the mere presence of the DPAA contradict the above piece of advice?
I have tremendous respect for PQMedia and all that it has done for this industry. I have read and re-read the company’s studies and forecasts and have no doubt that if the above quote was included in a presentation, that it must be the sentiment of numerous knowledgeable people in the industry. So, why the disconnect between these experts and other major trends that I see in the industry?
First, Mr. Quinn shows a chart that lays out what a small percentage of overall OOH spend is actually used for Digital Out-of-Home. He considers this to be an opportunity for DOOH to take a greater share of OOH budgets, which would create significant advertising spend increases in the space. The second major point he makes is that DOOH’s roots are in Out-of-Home. It is signage that is out of the home that happens to be digital instead of static. According to this description, DOOH is a place-based medium and should be considered as such.
On the other hand, one can make just as strong of a counter-argument that Digital Out-of-Home’s roots lie within Television. The screens generally resemble that of a television or video monitor. These networks often show television-like content mixed with advertisements, many of which are closely related to advertisements that are actually running on television. From this point of view, the medium is place-based television.
I looked to the DPAA to learn how it is positioning the industry. “The Digital Place-Based Advertising Association (DPAA) exists to drive consistent growth for the industry through collaboration among advertisers, agencies, place-based digital and video advertising networks and their suppliers.” Sounds like they consider DOOH as its own, independent category.
We have a difficult puzzle to solve. On the one hand, we have the model of the United Kingdom and sage advice from PQMedia on how to position ourselves, while on the other hand we have a powerful industry impetus to separate ourselves and function as a distinct category. My answer, then, is to go with the proverbial flow. We shouldn’t be afraid to be Out-of-Home, but we shouldn’t be afraid to align ourselves with other media (Television) also. We can’t predict the future or determine which way this industry will grow, but I do feel that considering ourselves Out-of-Home exclusively greatly limits our capabilities and our potential. DOOH has the ability allow interaction with the consumer and utilize tools that television and online take for granted—for example networks that can day-part and networks that allow for measurable interaction.
Our response to the statement, “Don’t be afraid to be Out-of-Home,” then, is “Okay we won’t be.” What we will be afraid to do is to limit ourselves. The U.S. OOH and DOOH markets are significantly different from those overseas. It would be a mistake to clone our industry after theirs, no matter how advanced they are. As for statements that Digital Out-of-Home’s roots lie within Out-of-Home per se, I would say that depends on the network and the type of signage they possess. Some DOOH displays closely resemble OOH signage, while other DOOH networks are almost indistinguishable from Television.
All of the above leads us to the conclusion that we have to remain agile and closely monitor how the industry is developing. In the meantime, we will remain Out-of-Home while keeping other options open until we attain the ultimate goal which is to become an independent industry with a definitive place among the greater media mix.