While the dwell time at stations and airports is often significant, in the automotive sector engagement times are shorter 

Often, advertisers can only rely on consumers catching a fleeting glimpse of their work as they drive past. 

This, says OohMedia’s Cook, is an altogether different challenge in today’s digital world: “From a digital point of view, automotive is different. In other environments we can have full engagement, but at the roadside it’s more like a 10-second engagement.”

Turning billboards digital is also a bigger challenge for roadside advertising, thanks to vast amounts of red tape. 

“We will see the road business take a little longer to expand its digital area, primarily because every sign has a council and a property owner requirement so there are a lot more hurdles to get over, as well as different rules in different states,” explains Cook. 

The advantage of going digital, however, is that ads can be changed immediately, in response to location or time of day. Magnum, for example, ran a successful campaign on digital billboards. The screens were pre-set to have a longer exposure on days when there was a higher average temperature – and therefore more demand for ice-cream. 

APN has a total of 12 large format high definition digital billboards in Australia, with plans to introduce more to the network this year. 

But the power of the static billboard must not be underestimated, says APN’s Wood: “We know that four out of five people notice billboards, and we know that 70% of people believe that billboards are effective at communicating with them when they drive.” 

APN recently launched its network of 75 ‘Lux’ backlit billboards. “They are very attention-demanding and have a high impact,” says Wood. Advertisers including Jag and Audi have already made use of the Lux billboards. 

While digital is gradually catching on in the roadside environment, one thing that is proving to remain constant is the roadside audience. 

“Roadside audiences are not declining – and there is no fear of them declining,” says Cook. “Big brands therefore have confidence to book their strategic outdoor program because they know the audience will be there. And because of that certainty, we are seeing a resurgence in the use of billboards to be very creative again.” 

According to McInnes, there are three pillars that good outdoor advertising must achieve: convenience, experience and personalisation: “That’s what consumers expect from advertisers and brands. The things that feed into that are social media, big data and the smartphone. For out-of-home, it’s critical to deliver those three pillars.”

She points to Yahoo’s ‘Bus stop derby’ campaign in San Francisco. LED screens were installed at bus stops throughout the city that enabled commuters to play games against people at other bus stops around town. Neighbourhoods were pitted against each other, all in the name of promoting Yahoo’s apps. 

“This campaign brought all three pillars together to create a community on the street, using technology as well as social media,” she explains. 

“The virtual world and the real world came together – and that’s how I see the future of out-of-home.”  

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