Best of OOH on show in Hong Kong

Robin McDonnell, CEO of Phantom Billstickers, is currently in Hong Kong for the 2024 World Out of Home Congress. He provides a report on day one of the conference, imparting his personal highlights and key takeaways for the out-of-home sector at large

In the heart of Asia’s dynamic landscape lies a city where the modern skyline pulses with echoes of its humble origins.

Hong Kong started as a tranquil fishing village, evolving into a metropolis that stands as a testament to progress and innovation. Amid shiny skyscrapers and rickety walk-ups, one can’t ignore the omnipresent billboards that adorn the top of seemingly every building.

Hong Kong serves as one of the key epicentres of the out-of-home (OOH) advertising industry. Rightly so, as most of the LED digital billboard technology is manufactured in Shenzhen, China, 30km away.

It’s no surprise then, that the World Out of Home Organization has selected this city as host for its annual congress in 2024.

Here, amidst the gleaming towers and bustling streets, OOH industry leaders converge to explore the latest trends and innovations, against the backdrop of a city that never sleeps.

Devotees will recall my cure-all for jet lag is to embark on a poster run. Technically speaking, putting up bill posters in Hong Kong is frowned upon; it might even be illegal, but billstickers here do their thing and there are a number of “tolerated” locations where authorities turn a blind eye. More on that in a future instalment.

Thurday morning’s congress was kicked off by Dr. Bernard Chan Pak Li, Under Secretary for Commerce at the Hong Kong Government, extending a warm welcome to an assembly of over 500 delegates.

Tom Goddard, World Out of Home President, gave a fervent address, painting Hong Kong as one of the most dynamic stages globally.

He unfurled the day’s theme, “Growing the OOH Sector,” with a passion that resonated throughout the venue.

Goddard ignited a fire as he spoke of the pivotal growth factors propelling the industry forward: from the indispensable role of measurement data to the imperative of sustainability, automation, collaboration, and networking.

He heralded the breakthrough of surpassing the 5% market share threshold (5.2%), questioning whether this is a sign of sustained growth for OOH.

Goddard underscored the urgency of embracing sustainability, casting the spotlight on Ad Net Zero as a beacon of responsibility in media practices and went on tochampion the untapped potential of retail media, urging stakeholders to seize the moment and capitalise on emerging opportunities.

The crescendo of Goddard’s address was when he extolled the value of global collaboration within the World Out of Home channel, speaking to the strength in unity, and the diverse representation in the over 500 delegates from 42 countries.

Jas Cai, Media Director and Chief Expert at Huawei followed Goddard with the morning’s keynote presentation. He infused the gathering with a renewed sense of purpose by delving into the transformative power of OOH in shaping consumer mindsets, offering invaluable insights into Huawei’s visionary approach to the medium.

In the wake of this discourse, the conference hall hummed with anticipation and determination, infused with the collective energy of industry pioneers poised to forge new frontiers in the OOH landscape.

While in the past, representation from New Zealand delegates at the Congress has been limited to myself and the local legends from Lumo, this time is different.

Thanks to a convenient 12-hour direct flight from Auckland, we’re lucky to have representatives from a large share of out-of-home operators, including two delegates from your favourite street poster company, Phantom Billstickers.

It’s also positive to have buy-side representation from our mates at Billups and PHD, and even better, I’m stoked to see the Out of Home Association of Aotearoa (OOHMAA) representing the industry on a global stage.

This broad representation is a clear indication the OOH industry in Aotearoa has reached a pinnacle where it stands as a leader in our market.

As Kiwis, we may not always boast about our achievements and I’m the first to admit that there is so much that still needs to be done, but a closer look at each supplier in New Zealand would reveal unparalleled excellence on a global scale. We really don’t know how lucky we are!

Other content from the morning explored the growth of retail media, the fastest-growing OOH channel in a cookie-less world.

Stephen Joseph from Ocean Outdoor dove headfirst into AI for OOH, and the South Korean OOH industry shared an update, including their revolutionary Ad Free Zone approach (it’s like Hamsterdam in the Wire but for digital billboards and yields some amazing creativity, I can’t ever see any city in Aotearoa being so brave but one can dream).

The afternoon’s sessions consisted of a fireside chat between Anna Bager from OAAA and Goddard, who discussed the intricacies of the American market, including the evolution of the OAAA, founded in 1891 as the Associated Bill Posters’ Association. Now with over 800 members, it is the oldest advertising trade association in the world.

Teresa Fung from MTR, Hong Kong, and Taka Owada – Deputy Manager, Jeki JR East Mktg & Comms, Inc took us through the challenges faced by rail advertising as a result of the pandemic. These are huge operations and the ripples felt in NZ were a much larger wave in Hong Kong and Japan.

The highlight of the afternoon was the creative awards introduced by Matthew Deardon and Dino Burbridge.

Unilever Levant won the Creative Classic with its excellent hand-painted installation and Wavemaker, Group M and Ocean Labs was named the winner of Digital for its giant vending machine for the Coca-Cola Company.

The Sustainability winner was Ecobanner from OOH! Media Australia and anew award, the Chair of Judges went to Electromedia’s Guarded Bus Stop. This transformative campaign highlighted the positive impact OOH can make in the world. The technical innovation award, voted by delegates of the Congress, went to Talking Cities by Live Board. 

There you have it, a wrap-up of day one of the World Out of Home Congress 2024 in Hong Kong. The best of OOH has arrived in Hong Kong, and the future of the channel looks bright.

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Robin McDonnell is the CEO of Phantom Billstickers.

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