Digital screens continue their ascent as APN Outdoor announces Auckland Airport plans

Much in the same way that client demand has driven the search for more granular audience insights, the outdoor industry has also been making moves to meet the growing expectation of digital solutions. APN Outdoor was first to that large-format party with its digital billboard network in Auckland and now it’s set to switch on New Zealand’s largest high-resolution digital billboard at Auckland Airport in December.

There are already digital screens inside the airport, but this new screen is part of a wider digital development plan from APN Outdoor, which won the contract of Ooh! Media earlier this year and is giving Auckland Airport’s current advertising inventory a big overhaul.

The new site (nicknamed Apollo after the Greek God of Light) will measure 19.75 x 4.75 metres, or 94 m² and will be located on the corner of George Bolt and Tom Pearce Drives, which provides advertisers with a daily audience of over 55,000 travellers and airport visitors. 

The curved, seven metre high Apollo will comprise a screen resolution of 468 x 1944 pixels, the highest for outdoor screens available in the world and capable of displaying 281 trillion colours. APN Outdoor has chosen Daktronics as its technology supply partner for its Auckland Airport redevelopment, which is set for completion in February 2015. 

In addition to its scale, APN Outdoor’s general manager Phil Clemas says Apollo provides APN Outdoor advertisers with all the benefits of digital, including minimal lead times, immediacy of posting, day-part messaging and mobile/social convergence. Apollo will be sold in a two-week sales cycle, with advertisers on an eight-second ad rotation.

Elsewhere in Auckland, OnScreen Advertising has also partnered with ASB Showgrounds and announced plans to launch two giant outdoor LED screens at the venue in the second half of November to take advantage of the 1.2 million people that pass through the gates every year.  

The flexibility and novelty of digital outdoor advertising has seen APN Outdoor’s network of billboards booked out for several months in advance. And there have already been some creative uses of the medium, including 3 News’ live election coverage and a recent Sourpatch Kids campaign. But are the growing queues pulling budgets away from more traditional modes of out-of-home advertising? 

OMANZ general manager Adam McGregor says that internationally the launch of new products has resulted in “redistribution of budgets by some advertisers,” but he plays down the impact of this by saying that this has been limited and that the “overall picture is one of growth”. 

Digital billboard advertising in the New Zealand context is still in its infancy, but McGregor says he doesn’t see the proliferation of digital options affecting non-digital sites.         

“So far the increasing number of digital out-of-home formats have not eroded revenue from traditional billboard stock or any other out-of-home formats,” he says. “It appears that the new displays are stimulating additional demand and therefore incremental revenue to the sector.”

Adshel’s general manager Nick Vile says digital out of home has been a work in progress for a number of years now, from roadside digital billboards through to retail networks, or place-based opportunities. However, he says the expansion of digital outdoor advertising has not been quite as fast as it has been in other markets for a number of reasons. 

“In the past, we’ve seen technology costs as a prohibitor to growth, along with strict limitations set out by government authorities … We are now seeing a number of private equity funds come into the OOH sector in markets all over the world, at the same time as they are bringing investment to the sector, technology costs are reducing and advertisers are demanding the ability to execute campaigns digitally,” says Vile. “All of these factors combined mean that digital OOH panels are quickly being seen by advertisers as the fifth screen, and as a result we will see further development in this area … [And] with the exponential increase in smart phone penetration, combined with the increased investment in digital screens, there is no doubt that the future of OOH will be digitally led.”

Jon Drumm, the managing director of Go Media—which was formed in September through a merger between Big Picture, Go Outdoor and Bacbou—has also pinpointed the regulation of billboard advertising as a major encumbrance, saying that the Resource Consent Process differs for each city council and that it is often difficult to meet the list of requirements, which are set up with a “negative view toward billboard advertising”. Like Vile, Drumm also identifies cost as a problem, but he expects both these problems to moderate over time.

“The feedback we have had so far recently is that digital screens are priced too high,” he says. “The creative use of the screens will improve over time and the councils’ attitudes to movement will also soften over time allowing for more exciting creative options.”

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