Q&A: How To “Future-Proof” OOH Advertising

November 19th, 2015 | Matthew Chung, Manager, Communications and Content

Michael Trautmann
Michael Trautmann

Digital and emerging technologies are both a boon and a bane to the OOH industry. The same tech that allows for never-before-seen executions through digital OOH also contributes to consumers being in a perpetually-distracted state. But Michael Trautmann, co-founder and CEO of German agency Thjnk, believes OOH is well-positioned to adapt. In fact he visited Toronto in October to share why he thinks OOH will never go out of fashion, speaking at OMAC’s Activate Conference (along with Neil Morris of Grand Visual, who wrote recently about Making Out Of Home The Hero). Trautmann shared advice on how marketers can keep consumers engaged and overcome the challenges presented to them by modern life. For instance, IBM’s solution for advertising in denser urban settings was to create billboards that provide utility in the form of benches, shelters or ramps where people needed them.

More recently, Trautmann spoke with ACA about the path forward for OOH ads.

ACA: With people paying more attention to their smartphones and less to their surroundings, how can OOH marketers get them to take notice of their ads? Are location-based marketing techniques, such as beacons, the best way to get someone’s attention?

Trautmann: The first and most important thing about out-of-home advertising is, there is no such thing as ad-blocking for it. If you are outside, you will get in contact to it. I don’t claim that every piece of OOH advertising is good and of value, but it is part of the DNA of our cities and it develops over time with digitization. There are many technologies, like iBeacons or QR codes, where you can combine OOH with the digital world, and as people tend to take pictures with their smartphone of whatever they see, I think we are not at the end of the road – there will be more things to create.

I think it is much easier for out-of-home to adapt to the new possibilities than print advertising and magazines. For sure the iPhone or smartphone generation walk through the streets and probably 25% of the time they are looking into their phone, but it is still possible to reach them. It’s not simple because there are so many billboards and new formats that it’s tough to stand out, that’s for sure. But if you have a clear idea and a good brand, you still have a medium that works.

ACA: You talked at the conference about making OOH messages personal. What examples have you seen that accomplish that?

Trautmann: I think personalization is an effective tool, but it does not start with 1-to-1 personalization – it starts with addressing different target groups. A very good example is at the railway station. On one platform, a long-distance train arrives and it is used by local business people. Then five minutes later, on the same platform comes a regional train that people use to commute to work. Both passengers can be served different messages. So you don’t do one-to-one but you can use OOH media to address different target groups.

One of my favourite examples of personalization was a combination of OOH and Instagram. Nike found out that many, many athletes take selfies of themselves before they start doing their workout or afterward. Nike took these Instagram photos and made personalized billboards and put them into the streets. People saw themselves on the street and they might take pictures of themselves next to their billboard. So this “I want to be a hero for 15 minutes issue” is something you can use with this type of media.

OOH can also be used to bring people into a shared experience. For instance, my company created a “Wall of Fame” for Edding, a pencil-making company in Germany. Users could draw, on the internet, live pictures with a virtual pencil. To kick this off, we transported this into the OOH sphere, and asked designers we had recruited before to draw on this surface on the internet. Thousands of people saw this in OOH media and then they went onto the web to be part of it. We had more than 200,000 people during a very limited period of time drawing on this thing.

ACA: That sounds like fun. But people are being bombarded by messages throughout the day. How do you think OOH marketers can ensure their OOH advertising makes a lasting impact with consumers and actually drives brand recall and sales?

Trautmann: OOH does something for the brand. In New York, for instance, there is a company that produces OOH as an art form, they paint billboards and they have become part of the DNA of the city. That helps to keep that brand in the mind of people, so it’s not just here’s the next thing, come and buy me now, it is for branding as well.