Tech Watch: Adshel CEO Rob Atkinson looks into the future of out-of-home advertising

  • Didge
  • April 27, 2016
  • Erin McKenzie
Tech Watch: Adshel CEO Rob Atkinson looks into the future of out-of-home advertising

There’s a lot going on in the world of media. Each week new updates see platforms change and communication habits follow suit. So how can marketers keep up? In a new series we talk to people in the industry about what the updates mean to marketers. This week we look into the crystal ball of out-of-home advertising to see what lies in store for the digital sites.

Ad blocking and its affect on advertisers has been a hot topic for a while now, and something we’ve spent a fair amount of time covering here on StopPress, so it’s refreshing to hear someone in adland say it doesn’t affect their business. 

“You can’t block a bus shelter,” Adshel CEO ​Rob Atkinson says. “The issues facing the media don’t impact us now and probably never will.”

When it comes to out-of-home advertising (OOH), the fragmentation of media due to rising populations is not a concern as population growth is its best friend, Atkinson says. The issue of ad fraud is also not a worry, as out of home advertisements don’t rely on clicks.

As it is not threatened by the enemies of its online counterparts, it's no surprise OOH advertising is on the rise, with growing value due to technological advancements. Adshel has over 3,000 sites in New Zealand and soon 150 of those will be digital.

Atkinson says digital sites bring with them the added benefit of being flexible. Unlike traditional sites, like billboards, the screens will allow ads to be updated in real time, allowing for things like a product price to be updated. He also says it will also allow ads to be changed according to variables like traffic flow, if advertisers want to attract the greatest number of eyes at a particular time of day.

Using its new Adsmart, platform, Atkinson says Adshel is giving advertisers, or media agencies, the autonomy to change the creative themselves and not charge them for the privilege.

“It will be useful when there’s a client who may have four or five product lines running at a time across different markets, so it could be across Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and they find that one line is shooting the lights out and the others are stalling. They can literally, in real time, change all the copy to the product that is doing well.”

While digital opens new opportunities for advertisers, Atkinson says there is still a place for traditional advertisements, meaning the number of Adshel sites to be converted to digital in the future and when it will happen is up for debate.

“We’ve got plenty of advertisers and plenty of categories within advertising that actually still like the fact that they can own a location for a week, or longer, because they are the sole advertiser and they don’t share.”

On the new digital sites there will be more than one advertiser able to buy the location, however Atkinson says what is given up in terms of sole ownership is made up in the flexibility of digitalisation.

As well as flexibility in terms of changing ad content, Atkinson says digital sites also open up a range of opportunities that traditional advertising can’t.

“I think Phil Rowley, global innovation director PHD worldwide summed it up when he said ‘The lines are blurring’. The beauty of out-of-home is it can double between a TV screen, a social feed, a camera, a vending machine, a download point or a purchase point.”

He gives the example of Woolworths in Australia which is now enabling people to collect their shopping on the way home from the train station. He says the “click, purchase and collect” model is starting to get legs.

Looking further into the future, Atkinson points out how driverless cars may one day have an impact on OOH advertising. Despite them still being a while off, he sees the automated vehicles bringing animation to the streets.

“…driver distraction wouldn’t be an issue if you are not actually driving, and will that mean that people have more time to dwell and more time on their hands to look out the window? I don’t know.”

While the idea of animated advertising sounds exciting, Atkinson says he is not convinced it will work in environments outside of shopping malls or airports, particularly as there is no sound. Globally, he says findings show static display is the best form of advertising, delivering the greatest value.

What animated advertising does do however is raise the question of how much is too much when it comes to OOH advertising, something Atkinson says advertisers need to be mindful of.

For Adshel, being a street furniture provider with its bus shelters, he says it's in an enviable position in that it is giving back.

He sees a future where its bus shelters are a source of value for local councils and public transport networks as they will be able to help people move around cities easier. The shelters will become a “connection hub" that will act as a communication point if there is a natural disaster or if there are blockages on the roads.

“What we are trying to say is, we can add to the fabric of the city responsibly and we are mindful of heritage centres and the architecture of the city. Clearly street furniture can provide a utility, not only to keep people dry, but in the future we will be able to provide, through technology, free Wifi or Wifi provided by the city itself and it will enhance and enrich peoples lives as well as just stopping people from getting wet.”

  • Rob Atkinson is the CEO of Adshel.

  • Tech Watch will look at a new tech update every Wednesday.

  • If you're interested in sponsoring this series, please contact Vernene Medcalf at vernene@tangiblemedia.co.nz.

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