Outdoor digital advertising has had a slow roll out in Auckland due to council regulations about visual impact and safety, and this means that Auckland doesn't quite have the digital glow of New York's cityscape just yet. However, outdoor digital advertising is gaining momentum in the Super City, and the Auckland Council is showing a willingness to engage with out-of-home media owners on the incorporation of new digital sites.
While outdoor advertising company APN was the first to unleash a digital billboard in Auckland city, other companies were soon to follow. And one of the latest is iSite, which has just announced a new billboard collection called ‘Aura’ that will feature two high profile sites in the heart of Newmarket in June, according to iSite Media chief executive Wayne Chapman.
The company’s largest digital billboard, ‘The Victoria’, will launch in August this year, and iSite's website claims that it will be the largest digital billboard in the nation upon launch:
"Towering over Victoria and Hobson Street it will attract a huge daily audience and is visible over distances of more than one kilometre. 'The Victoria' will light up the day and night with 124m2 of the highest quality LED technology, delivering spectacular digital display to captivate audiences and illuminate brands.”
As things stand, APN Outdoor has the biggest digital billboard at Auckland Airport, but iSite's new juggernaut will be substantially larger.
Chapman says he’s sure the council recognises that digital displays form part of and enhance vibrant cityscapes all around the world.
“Nonetheless, proposed digital sites are assessed critically and must meet stringent criteria,” he says. “The companies that have achieved consents have worked hard to provide a level of comfort to the council in respect to perceived concerns in the areas of distraction, and impact to visual amenity. It is no coincidence that the progress has been achieved by highly credible, experienced companies prepared to engage collaboratively and constructively with council and take a responsible approach.”
Chapman isn't alone in this dialogue with the city councils to permit for more digital advertising to be added. Last year, Go Media general manager Jon Drumm told NZ Marketing that attaining council consent remained difficult.
"The biggest hurdle is the Resource Consent process and cost," Drumm said at the time. "This process is different for each City Council. Most district plans have a negative view towards billboard advertising."
Auckland Council outlines its general position on billboards in its Bylaw No 27B from 2007, and a major concern is the likelihood of billboards interfering with traffic. However, every year, the number of digital billboards increases and this does suggest the councils are warming up to the idea.
Perhaps, outdoor digital advertising gaining momentum has something to do with the ‘Shifting baseline effect’, where what was unfamiliar before, becomes the “new normal” after it has been around for a while. Humans are adaptable creatures. Once the prospect of smartphones was interesting and perhaps a little daunting, but now they’re in everyone’s pockets.
Chapman compares the local progress to Australia, saying that things also started slowly across the ditch but that the country now has a sophisticated outdoor digital network.
“Australia is on the same journey but a few years ahead,” he says.
As an interesting aside, the sophistication and extent of Australia's DOOH network means that there is already talk of selling ads across these outdoor sites, programmatically.And Tangible Media publisher John Baker sees merit in this potential move.
"Programmatic makes sense in outdoor as it is not a context led medium given it is not based on content but physical location and as a result, is much more predictable and simplistic based on potential eyeballs alone," he says. "In this case, the engagement with the medium is derived solely by the advertising. The need for human intervention becomes less of a requirement."
The reason why media owners are so eager to introduce digital options is because advertisers are keen to use it. He says there is evidence that, even in its infancy, digital has succeeded in introducing new advertisers and categories to out of home advertising.
“Longer term the increased flexibility and dynamism afforded by DOOH (digital out of Home advertising) will undoubtedly be instrumental in growing the sector," Chapman says. “There’s the next generation display, the fact that LED presents high resolution images, very crisp and clear and constitutes a premium environment. The nature of digital means it affords a great deal of flexibility in terms of how advertisers can use the space. Ads could be day-parted. [Advertisers] could be showing a bacon and egg McMuffin in the morning and a Big Mac meal as people drive home in the evening. In theory, it’s a lot more responsive."
While Chapman says it’s too early to tell whether large formats or smaller formats are more effective, he says “both formats provide distinct benefits despite sharing much valuable DNA".
"The smaller formats are generally used in conjunction, providing geographic and audience reach, while the scale and impact of 'The Victoria' conveys brands instant fame, stature and gravitas.”
Thus far, APN Outdoor has been the dominant player in large-format digital billboard market, with its website saying that it's the only media company currently offering a roadside large format, high-resolution billboards in Auckland. And the company also has plans to roll out more options across the major metropolitan areas over the next 12 to 18 months.
Statistics on APN’s website show that “71 percent of New Zealanders agree that digital billboards are better at attracting and maintaining attention than a static billboard.”