Dan Dawson, Chief Creative Officer, Grand Visual

Dan Dawson, CCO Grand Visual

With travel restrictions still in place across much of the world and varying degrees of lockdown hindering our out of home movement and daily lives, the impact on the OOH medium has been significant. Arguably the biggest media win of the lockdown is the nationwide embracing of various digital technologies to help us stay connected. Connected to colleagues, connected to family and friends, our education and healthcare systems, and even connected to my local fruit and veg store who now offer online shopping – unheard of before Covid-19, this really is creative innovation.

Lockdown has also been a time of reflection and space to think about what comes next. When social distancing measures are relaxed, how will the OOH medium be used creatively? OOH, media will likely be at the highest occupancy level and space will be at a premium.  Advertisers may need to consider inventory outside of the traditional main players. 

Budgets and timelines for creative production will also be hit hard as companies prepare for what the media suggest might be a global recession. With these conditions, advertisers will need outstanding creativity now more than ever. Creative that cuts through the noise and engages the audience in a memorable way as they reacquaint themselves with the great outdoors.

Resonate with Mindset 

Consequently, brands need to ensure that the money they spend on OOH media works harder than ever. Creative needs to stand out through timely delivery, with messages that align to the time of day, location, and consumer purpose to be useful. By resonating with the audience mindset it is possible to create deeper emotional connections with people as they go about their ‘new normal’.

There have been massive advancements in smart audience planning over the last few years, data tools that not only helps OOH to get tactical with behavioural targeting but also informs the right creative message, tone or brand to prioritise from a subset. Linking your smart media planning to smart creative will drive media effectiveness, as we deliver the messages at the right moments for your audience’s mindset.

Get Scalable 

With budgets inevitably constrained, the need for production efficiency on large OOH media plans is immediate. Advertisers need to work with digital OOH production partners who offer scalable content mastering and creative re-versioning for OOH, to capitalise on the efficiencies for delivering DOOH creative to multiple formats, environments, durations and ratios. One that has the ability to act for local, regional, continental or global markets, potentially requiring thousands of pieces of creative for each campaign. 

Be Contextual 

With occupancy on OOH expected to be high as soon as the global lockdown begins to ease,  only a finite amount of space will be available, so being smart about your creative and ensuring it is topical to the environment will be more important than ever. 

A recent study from Clear Channel revealed that creative OOH executions were 32% more effective if they are contextually relevant. We know from experience that dynamic creative delivers effectiveness  – for creative as well as media. Contextual messaging is not just for the big digital and technology brands of the world, we’ve worked on campaigns for airlines, retail, food, beverage, automotive and FMCG brands that all prove the same incredible results. 

Go Bespoke

With standard OOH and DOOH media space selling fast, advertisers will have the chance to broaden their reach in the OOH space by looking at locations, formats or experiences that they would not usually have considered. Immersive experiences and ambient outdoor activations help brands stand out in a cluttered environment and create deeper emotional connections with audiences. 

Recent neuroscience research led by Ocean Outdoor found that engaging with consumers through interactive experiences on DOOH creates deeper, more memorable connections to your brand. As a big AR enthusiast one of their key stats stood out to me: “The use of augmented reality using image detection equated to a four times stronger impact of memory encoding.”

Get Social 

We don’t need to actually be outdoors to appreciate outdoor work. Social and OOH are natural bedfellows, platforms helping other platforms. Interactive experiences help to spread the message beyond the OOH medium it’s initially displayed on as participants share their experience online with friends and family. So the ability to ‘socialise’ special builds, murals, interactive experiences into incredible multi-format campaigns will be a real winner in the second half of 2020 and beyond. Again some interesting findings from the same Ocean research noted that adding social media capabilities to your campaign can make it 4 times more memorable for consumers. 

As lockdown restrictions continue to relax, and people reacquaint themselves with the great outdoors, those advertisers who invest in OOH media but underinvest in creativity risk missing the mark in terms of brand stand out, campaign effectiveness and ultimately ROI. As an industry, we have a duty to these advertisers to help them navigate what will likely be a crazy H2 for 2020. We face some tough economic and emotional times ahead, as we endeavour to get ‘back to normal’. As life OOH starts to open up there will undoubtedly be challenges, so it is vital for advertisers to ensure they have the right creative support for their brand, agency, budget, timeline and ambition. 


This article first appeared on OOH Today on 29th May 2018.

Our Chief Creative and Technology Officer, Dan Dawson, and Jon Conway, the Chief Strategy Officer from Talon sat down after their panel session at the GO2018 OOH Conference and discussed their highlights from the Texas event.

Both OOH experts were part of a panel which explored data-driven creativity, here are their thoughts…

Why were you there?

Dan Dawson: Grand Visual has been attending the OAAA/Geopath conference since we opened our New York office in 2014. There is no other event like it for bringing together all the stakeholders from across the OOH landscape for some great knowledge sharing, debate, and networking.

Jon Conway: We recently opened Talon New York, our first office outside of the UK. The conference felt like the ideal opportunity to see the US industry up close and under one roof. Talon has established itself as a leading out-of-home agency in the UK, but the US is in a league of its own in terms of scale and opportunity and it was so valuable to hear from the major players and understand more about the issues keeping them up at night.

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What was your #GO2018 conference highlight?

Dan Dawson: For me, the highlight was Nancy Fletcher’s keynote. Whilst summarizing the successes, the phenomenal rate of change and the growth potential of the industry, Nancy then got to the heart of the matter, with a rallying call for more meaningful industry collaboration between vendors, owners, agencies and specialists. It’s no longer ‘speculate to accumulate’, but ‘collaborate to innovate and innovate to accumulate’. For me, that really is the crux of it. All the best work we’ve produced over the years has come out of a cohesive, close-knit, multi-agency relationship, where all parties are collaborating from the start. Another highlight was the social side, meeting and catching up with industry friends, sharing OOH stories, and indulging in Austin’s finest Salt Lick BBQ, possibly the best #AustinBBQ ever… #Ribs #Beer #Repeat.

Jon Conway: I thought the whole event was impressive and the high production values created an atmosphere where people felt proud to be part of the industry. I found Geopath President Kym Frank’s keynote on the evolution of OOH measurement powerful. I believe this is a critical issue for the industry today. As Kym said, advertisers are demanding independent measurement and they do not want to transact media based on a currency generated by an agency or publisher. The work that Geopath is doing to refine audience measurement and provide a trusted, universal currency addresses advertisers’ needs will help the industry to thrive.

What was your conference breakout session about?

Dan Dawson: The focus of our session was ‘Right Audience, Right Moment and Right Message.’ 3 simple rules that we believe makes an effective digital OOH campaign… but in essence, they are the foundation of any OOH campaign.

Jon Conway: The growth of digital inventory has been a catalyst for creativity and effectiveness. But it is not just about digital screens, it’s also the signals we use to understand audiences and locations and the intelligent technologies used to build and deliver campaigns that respond to those signals. Speaking about this in terms of audience, moment and message makes sense, because thinking about media and creative together produces better advertising.

Dan Dawson: Good point Jon – That digital inventory is now supported by adtech platforms and workflows that allow creative to react and change during the course of a campaign. Dynamic creative, joins the dots between data-driven media planning and the mindset of a consumer at a given time, in a given place. That is powerful.

You two guys are based in the UK, what do you see as the biggest difference between our OOH markets?

Dan Dawson: The main differences are size and agility, and yes the two are linked. The UK is geographically the size of Michigan with a population around the size of California and Texas combined. The total UK OOH market is worth $1.5b (10% share of national ad spend), 47% of that is now coming from digital OOH. In the US OOH is a phenomenal $7b market [around 13% DOOH] contributing to 4.1% of the overall national ad spend. In the UK, most of the national OOH campaigns come from London-based agencies. Because of this, the budgets, concepts and innovative work streams can be done in an agile way with local inter-agency collaboration. The US market is more fragmented, which is expected due to the geographical and market size.

But both markets have consistent growth, partly fueled by digital OOH, transforming paper to pixel and opening the digital door to advertisers who want to behave smarter. Technology wise we’re largely the same – The media owners employ similar systems here as in the UK, so coupled with our API the integration for our technology stack has been relatively straightforward.

Jon Conway: There are clear differences in scale and geographical spread of audiences and urban areas, and this impacts the types of campaigns that we can deliver in the UK vs the US. Digitization also seems to have progressed more rapidly in the UK. Well over 50% of Talon’s UK media billings derived from digital campaigns last year. But, looking at the bigger picture, I think there are more similarities than differences. At the conference, we heard how the US market is grappling with the same basic challenge we face in the UK – how to capitalise on OOH’s core strengths and digital transformation to create better advertising and grow revenues. We’re confident that our approach to this challenge can work on both sides of the pond. That’s why we chose to open our first international office in the US.

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How can the OOH industry embrace technology to help deliver the right message to the right audience at the right moment in time?

Jon Conway: In a digital world, right audience, right message, right moment becomes more important because we’re confronted with the reality of out-of-home audiences and locations. We see people continually moving around, conditions shifting, and the personality of locations changing from one moment to the next. If we don’t respond by serving relevant ads, there’s an opportunity cost – our campaigns will be less effective at achieving their goals. How do we embrace technology to enable relevant, effective advertising? I think it’s already happening, We see an important part of our role being to manage this complexity and make it easy for advertisers to navigate the landscape and be effective. Being relevant doesn’t need to be complicated and we’ve seen time and again that these campaigns are more successful – delivering higher recall, with the positive brand associations of being useful and relevant, and driving business outcomes.

Google is a case in point. We’ve helped them to deliver world-class out-of-home advertising in the UK for products like the Google App, YouTube and Pixel and through their always-on placement in central London. Advertisers like Google are increasing out-of-home media spend year after year and producing award-winning campaigns. It’s working for them, and for our business, so we think it’s a model that could also help drive growth for the US market.

Dan Dawson: It’s simple evolution. As Jon says, the technology is helping us to be smarter about audiences and is helping to inform the creative message. By understanding audiences, you can create moments that trigger or update creative messages – crafting stories that are contextually relevant to a given location/time/audience. The OOH industry has always worked hard on its data. In fact, during Kym’s keynote at the conference, there was a very funny clip from the days when media owners would use human captured traffic data to decide where to put a roadside billboard. Today, live and legacy data is used to provide deeper insights into audience frame of mind. Now we’re able to paint a data-driven picture, we’re able to tailor messages accordingly instantly.

As we look to the future what are some tech solutions, concepts or practices that excite you and could elevate DOOH in the US?

Jon Conway: The role of technology in out-of-home – just like any industry – should be to make our work easier to produce whilst delivering better outcomes for our clients. What excites me, and what I believe can elevate out-of-home, is integrated digital and out-of-home operations. That’s about teams of people with the right mix of expertise, working together to deliver campaigns with consistent audience data and reporting. We absolutely see a future in which our people will be fully embedded in client and agency teams. They’ll work side-by-side with digital buyers and they’ll use complementary technologies to manage out-of-home alongside online investments. Some of that technology will be designed specifically for out-of-home audiences and locations, that’s a big part of what we’re focused on at Talon.

Dan Dawson: For me, it’s practices, not tech. I think the technology stack is there, now it is just about connecting them. We are on our way to realizing exponential growth, as systems become further connected with a programmatic OOH future not too far away. Opening up to online DSPs is an obvious way to encourage new money into OOH. But to sustain that revenue, the ad placements must prove to be effective, with the correct message and transparent, robust and agnostic reporting. That is where display and OOH differ in terms of system, so for OOH it highlights the need for specialist knowledge and tools.

We must all embrace change, technology, and collaboration. However, we have to remember that it’s the humans in our industry that will make this happen…. not the machines. I see the growth in OOH and digital OOH being designed by humans, driven by data and delivered by machine…. Creating efficiency at every step.

Now in its fourth year, Advertising Week Europe is the event where people from across all areas of advertising come together. At first glance, the four-day agenda can seem daunting but key themes emerged as the week progressed.

Data, Data Everywhere

The topic of Data weaved through many sessions across the week. In a stand out session hosted by iProspect, looking at Data, Creativity, Media & Content, Will Gompertz, Arts Editor, BBC, argued there’s just as much creativity happening in data and math as in advertising and when thinking about data & creativity, context is the differentiator to determine success or failure. Rick Hearst, CEO McGarryBowen, proposed that data should be seen as a tool to be harnessed and as a key element in creative ideation. The panel concluded that by having data infiltrate the advertising ecosystem it will lead to smarter, targeted, more relevant and effective campaigns.

Creative Technology

When it comes to technology, IPG’s “Evolution or Revolution” session highlighted the importance of tech being implemented to support the creative idea and enable you to impact your audience with greater effectiveness. One example given to illustrate the alignment between creative, technology and brand strategy was the Loreal Make-Up Genius App, which provided an innovative creative tech solution, user experience and garnered great results for the brand.

Creativity in a changing ecosystem

Facebook’s session on creativity, “Stop the Scroll”, examined the ‘one size fits all’ approach to creativity. The panel urged the industry to be smarter with creative production, by having all channels baked in at the production phase, to ensure we can deliver the best content & results for our clients. The panel suggested we need to evolve from old practices in order to generate better creative solutions.

Exterion Media’s session was one of the few from the week looking at the role of Outdoor and posed the question “are we making enough of digital creativity in outdoor?”. Alan Brydon from Outsmart argued that we need to communicate more about the creative potential of Digital Outdoor. Further, he urged the industry to move towards personalisation at scale through the use of dynamic creative. It was great to hear Outsmart championing a cause we are also passionate about at GV.

The Exterion session concluded by announcing the winner of their Creative Idol Competition. We were shortlisted with Rapport for our Kung Fu Panda 3 Mobile Game concept for Fox, along with campaigns for Capital FM & Norwegian from Trigger Buzz, Jerrard Wayne and Posterscope. The GV creative team were absolutely thrilled to be announced as winners! A great way to top off a week of thought leadership & creative excellence at Advertising Week Europe.