OOH is the new DM

When it comes to measuring out-of-home, it's no longer about how many people see the ad, but how many people respond to it. Thanks to new technology - and accountability demands on the part of marketers - advocates of the medium have found a number of ways to prove its worth. In fact, OOH is now as measurable, data-driven and trackable as direct marketing. And advertisers are noticing.

When it comes to measuring out-of-home, it’s no longer about how many people see the ad, but how many people respond to it. Thanks to new technology – and accountability demands on the part of marketers – advocates of the medium have found a number of ways to prove its worth. In fact, OOH is now as measurable, data-driven and trackable as direct marketing. And advertisers are noticing.

‘I think the key drivers [for OOH] are measurement and ROI,’ says Hellen Thompson, GM at the Canadian Outdoor Measurement Bureau (COMB), the tri-partite auditing body of all things outdoor comprised of agencies, suppliers and advertisers. ‘[The advertisers] are looking for more options and OOH provides that. People are seeing the value of it as more and more data [on its effectiveness] becomes available. So you’re seeing significant innovation.’

The team at NewAd’s Montreal office is certainly in the zone. The Red Zone, apparently. Poised to roll out a national promo campaign this month for the Old Spice personal care brand, the team is putting together the final touches on what it promises will be a highly targeted and measurable multi-platform campaign that centres on outdoor.

In response to concerns about effectiveness, last year the agency developed a tool called Target. It interviewed 12,000 people across Canada, focusing on those who frequented their resto-bars to ask questions about their lifestyle, and buying and media habits. The resulting database is used to build campaigns.

For the Old Spice brand, the NewAd guys extracted a snapshot of the typical Red Zone buyer. First, they found the 18-34 guys most likely to spend on personal care. Second, they determined this group loved to go dancing. Then, they calculated their online habits.

What has emerged is a campaign called Red Zone After Hours, which is taking place as dance events in bars, and incorporates an online contest, a televised competition and ads in bars. Across Canada, brand ambassadors will hit clubs that will be outfitted as Red Zone environments. Men in the target group are urged to participate in a dance-off that will be uploaded to the brand’s Web site where the general public will vote. Finalists will be flown to Toronto for a live dance-off at MuchMusic.

At retail, POS material will urge consumers to visit the Web site to not only vote but to enter the Dance Destination contest – the prize is a trip to Ibiza, Spain. Results will be tracked via Web site hits and votes, online contest entries, event staff interaction and dance participants.

‘I think marketers are realizing how impactful out-of-home is; how it makes their brand come alive and gives it a personality. And more consumers are increasingly spending their time on OOH,’ says Annick Major, promotions business development at NewAd.

Ed Weiss, media director at Toronto agency The Brainstorm Group, says new tech has fueled OOH’s transition to an interactive medium. ‘Right now, you’re seeing electronic, digital things that change on the fly. The ads are more electronic, more interactive and companies stepping into that electronic arena will leave others behind.’

‘Advertisers want every medium to prove its worth,’ adds Viacom Outdoor GM Nick Arakgi.

Canada Post answered the call for OOH, as well as other mediums, through a new, product called, simply, fetch. Essentially, this tool acts as the go-between between advertiser and audience. You see an ad (be it on TV or on a billboard) and if it’s ‘fetch-tagged’ with an orange-and-black icon, you can respond for more info or request a product sample.

‘We’re also able to assign a propensity-to-buy score,’ says Warren Tomlin, acting GM,

e-products and services for Canada Post. ‘For example, someone from a high postal code value area sees an automaker’s billboard. This [value score] will show us general demo info like household income and so on. If someone requests info from that area code, I can send over the full package, with paint chips for the car, etc. Whereas someone from a lower postal code value area would just get a postcard.’

Fetch was originally a 10-week test in Calgary early this year and has proven so successful that plans are in place to roll it out nationally early next year. Says program director Scott Nowlan: ‘For the pilot, we attracted 14 advertisers [including Shoppers Drug Mart, Citi-Financial and Universal Music.] We were hoping for two. We were aiming for 1,200 to 1,500 [consumer] participants and we had 10,000.’

One marketer that relied on fetch was

H & R Block. The brand used POS and theatre ads, specifically a static screen shot that ran prior to a film’s start urging viewers to ‘go fetch.’ The offer? A free mobile phone if you got your taxes done at a local Block office. With fetch, the tax service company had a way to measure where people were seeing their ads, as codes differed between the theatre ads, at retail level at telco partner Westco Communications and at local Block offices.

‘The big push for us was to get younger consumers – specifically students – in,’ says Todd McCallum, VP of marketing and business development. ‘We can closely track how this is working for us [with fetch].’

Key learnings? ‘The promo itself drew older than what we anticipated because that younger demo [18-25] already had cellphones. But we’re really interested in [seeing] how [fetch] will work nationally.’

It’s precisely because most people already have cellphones that Gary Schwartz has been so busy. As president of Toronto-based mobile communications aggregator Impact Mobile, he helped both Tomlin and Nowlan roll out fetch earlier this year. These days, he’s fielding calls from advertisers wanting to up their sales of everything from pizza to plasma screens.

‘Mobile is interactive out-of-home,’ he says. ‘When you implement mobile as a channel in your push media, you’re putting an interactive button in there, enabling someone to do a pull. [Traditional] OOH isn’t interactive. You want to make something interactive? Add a call-to-action like ‘text to win.”

Schwartz says that the trend in increasing interactivity plays especially well with kids, citing the example of a game versus a book. ‘Once you put interactivity into an ad, you’ve got them. That’s why games are

so popular.’

Pizza Pizza did this with the Molson Indy recently. While standing in line waiting to order pizza, a poster challenged you to text ‘pizza + Indy’ on your mobile. What you received was a trivia question. If answered correctly, you then received a PIN # to plug into the Web site to see what you’d won. Waiting in line will never be the same again.

The game versus book lesson wasn’t lost on Panasonic Canada when the electronics giant tapped into the SMS-as-outdoor-interactive trend this summer. First unveiled at the

mid-June Oasis concert held at the Molson Amphitheatre by House of Blues, Panasonic-branded screens invited concert-goers to send text shout-outs to friends, which were instantly shown onscreen. Each text message shown onscreen became the equivalent of a ballot in a contest to win a Panasonic digital camera. The camera winner received a text message on their mobile letting them know where to pick up their prize after the show.

‘The average age of the attendees was 35,’ reveals Denise Charlesworth, manager of advertising for Panasonic. ‘Artists like Santana and Robert Plant drew an older audience, probably 30-55. As you would expect, we had a large number of entries at the Oasis concert, and still over 67% of entries came from the older demographic.’ Talk about teaching old dogs new tricks. Charlesworth says Panasonic’s foray into the interactive world was a way for them to max out the value of their sponsorship, ‘as opposed to simply providing one-way signage.’

Libby Biason, director of corporate partnerships at the House of Blues, agrees. ‘Lots of people aren’t consuming media at home any more. You can walk around and not have to turn on the radio or TV. And the brands that are willing to take the risks early and get into the new technology way before the prices go up are the better for it.’

The folks at Viacom Outdoor share in the belief that technology is driving out-of-home executions and say that advertisers are doing more to hit audiences at multiple touchpoints. But, warns Viacom’s Arakgi, ‘you can’t beat the classics. Good creative gets people talking.’

Ford promo good to the last drop

Ford is all over the outdoor interactivity wave to catch buzz. Earlier this year, Dean Stoneley, director of marketing communications, worked with Young & Rubicam on a campaign for the 2005 Mustang.

The creative team came up with an audio billboard in Toronto’s entertainment district inviting people to heed the car’s siren song on radio station 88.3. They heard the roar of the engine and, over it, the voice of actor Kiefer Sutherland whispering: ‘You can hear the untamed spirit. The new Ford Mustang.’

The company has since installed a living billboard, complete with 800 species of plants and a line that reads: ‘Makes everything a little greener’ in Toronto’s Dundas Square to promote the Ford Escape Hybrid. In Vancouver, billboards replete with six-foot bird boxes – yes, filled with birdseed – are used to promote the brand with copy that promises: ‘For all creatures great and small.’

‘We’re trying to engage people in a unique way,’ says Stoneley. ‘The goal here was to get PR, word of mouth, buzz.’ In a replication of the original PR stunt in New York on April 5, more buzz followed in the form of a ‘One Tank Challenge’ that had the Ford Escape driving all over Toronto at the end of May – Citytv camera crew in tow. Wannabe Escape drivers were challenged to guess the number of kilometers until the hybrid’s gas tank ran dry. The contest garnered 1,195 entrants – twice what the station normally pulls. Fifty-one hours later, the odometer clocked a gasoline-stingy 970 kilometres. The closest guess belonged to Torontonian Jeff Hamilton, who won a two-year lease on the car.