As many people do around this time of year, we have taken time out to reflect on the year that is coming to an end. Outside of our OOH world 2016 has definitely had its moments that seemingly came out of the blue! For the Digital out of Home industry it was less surprising with another year of growth. We saw Exterion Media retain the TfL contract, JCDecaux begin their London Network roll out, whilst Clear Channel, Primesight and Outdoor Plus all expanded their digital networks.

This year saw a number of firsts and records for us at Grand Visual. A key milestone is that we have now delivered campaigns to over 38 countries. Working with an entertainment client we delivered some of our biggest projects of the year for international blockbuster releases.

When it comes to dynamic campaigns, brands and agencies have been bolder this year, pushing for their creative to be more contextual and relevant. From integrating Instagram & Twitter feeds, measuring emoji sentiment to transit timetables and cinema listings, we are seeing more creative approach to the integration of data into a campaign creative.

For Google, both in the UK and in the USA, we produced some great campaigns this year. Their long term holding at Old Street continued, and was shortlisted for a COOH Award for best use of live updates. In the USA, in partnership with D-Theory, we delivered a multi-territory, multi-network campaign for Google Play which recommended playlists based on current conditions such as time of day, weather and location.

Other dynamic campaigns we worked on this year include an activation for Elizabeth Arden (Shortlisted for a COOH Award) which monitored pollution levels at Oxford Circus station, and a campaign for Hasbro featuring a Furby commenting in Furbish on family films about to be screened.

DOOH for Child Rescue Alert Grand Visual

Our partnership with Missing People continued, and in February we were proud to be a part of their Child Rescue Alert Fortnight. We conceived and delivered a dynamic campaign that optimised it’s creative message across the UK to target specific areas and audiences where more sign ups were needed for the Child Rescue Alert system. Optimisation of the creative ensured that registrations were evenly distributed and that the CRA initiative achieved national coverage. A great campaign resulting from a great partnership which was recognised in September at the Annual Charity Awards.

One of the exciting developments for us this year has been brands wanting to maximise production value by rolling out larger more complex builds across multiple executions and territories. We had several big projects delivering not only GV firsts, but also world firsts. In Spring this year we worked with AMVBBDO and Talon to broadcast live feeds from Waitrose farms to digital screens in 9 cities across the UK. We also delivered several gesture and facial recognition campaigns for Vaillant, Lays & Canon.

Lay's 940x520 Grand Visual

At the outset, I don’t think anyone could have predicted the politically choppy waters that 2016 has brought. But when it comes to Digital Out of Home it has been full steam ahead with adventurous brands being bold, creative and brave with their campaigns -paving the way for a great 2017.

So that was 2015. For digital OOH it consisted of the usual mix of activity – standard display campaigns, one off activations, interactive and experiential fun and games as well as dynamic display campaigns driven by various triggers. So can we draw any insight from what’s happened? Are there any pointers for this year?

As an industry, 2015 saw the massive investment in hardware and infrastructure really paying off. Digital is driving OOH growth worldwide, and the medium is delivering intelligent advertising at real scale every day. From this turbo-charged DOOH technology offering, the ongoing debate has been about how creativity sits in the mix?

We know that digital has made OOH agile – that it has transformed a traditional broadcast medium into a more targeted, interactive and personalised media channel. So then the question has to be whether or not brands are capitalising on the medium’s full creative potential and maximising effectiveness?

The honest answer – very, very gradually. DOOH creative activity is still largely dominated by linear campaigns, but what we have seen happening over the last 12 months is a gradual shift away from the mediums linear roots, towards a more dynamic, interactive and experiential future. Creative development is moving in the right direction.

A quick audit of our own work during 2015 supports this. The number of dynamic projects we delivered was up year on year and now accounts for almost a third of our business. However, in the wider market the amount of dynamic activity is reckoned to sit much lower at less than 10%. The takeaway from these stats is that the creative “mode” for the channel is evolving, but there is still plenty of “head room” for improvement.

Compelling evidence for real-time, dynamic executions continues to stack up. A recent study proved the value added by using dynamic campaigns to deliver more relevant messaging, with ad recall up by a whopping +53%, and awareness also up by +18%.

We know that standard campaigns are delivering the cut through and attention you would expect – but as a digital medium there is an expectation from both clients and consumers that DOOH campaigns should be doing more. More relevance, more timely messaging, based on location, data and connectivity to the real world.

So now it is up to clients and their agencies to push the envelope and make dynamic DOOH campaigns the norm. To do that we must challenge every brief response with smart digital enhancements and make, smart, dynamic and interactive campaigns an everyday reality.

Recent moves towards making the DOOH market programmatic, particularly on the buying side in the US, but also in terms of creative fulfilment here in the UK, will hopefully help to accelerate this shift away from standard campaigns towards a more active, reactive and relevant future.

Dynamic and programmatic is very much where the medium is heading. A clear indication of this came at the end of last year when Google launched a landmark trial using ad technology to buy and automate campaign workflows alongside OpenLoop for creative fulfilment – a really significant milestone for the outdoor advertising industry.

We believe that game-changing initiatives like this will spur the market onto thinking more about DOOH as a data-driven, real-time medium where telling stories remains key, but where the winners will be those who do so in more than just a linear fashion.

Looking ahead to what’s in store for 2016, the medium is in great health, and the hardware, software and appetite is now there to ensure the channel continues its excellent growth. Data will become increasingly important – from site placement, audience targeting and all the way through to creative. Indeed, data-led planning only takes us halfway to relevance. Data-led creative is what takes it the rest of the way – makes it memorable, relevant, useful.

Some final guiding principles for 2016 and programmatic creative: data and technology should be a complement to, not a replacement for, idea-led content and from a practical point of view, this means that campaigns are sets of creative assets that work together as a unified whole — an ad system that can evolve against conditions and triggers.

Here’s to an exciting 2016 as digital OOH builds on the progress of 2015 to deliver smarter campaigns – every day and at scale.