It’s been more than twenty years since the innovation bug bit me. Back in the mid 90’s I was working for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) in Manhattan, and was intrigued one night watching a local access channel on Time Warner Cable.
I had stumbled onto an interactive cable television show created and produced by NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, which is part of the Tisch School of the Arts. It was called “Yorb: An Interactive Neighborhood” and allowed callers to control navigation around a virtual world by using their phones. It was connected to the ECHO Bulletin Board system. This was before the ascendency of the World Wide Web, and was run on a minimal budget and somewhat sketchy technology.
At the time I was working as a graphic designer for Andersen and uploaded surreal images of friends and family members surrounded by psychedelic fractal imagery to be featured in this virtual world. And I even visited the production studio on the NYU campus a couple of times, watching the skeletal staff rebooting computers when the entire system inevitably crashed at times.
Many of those involved with Yorb and the program at NYU moved on to important roles in the rapidly emerging tech space. For me, it cemented my love of new technology as it impacts our culture. And I moved on as well, working at EURO RSCG and Saatchi & Saatchi, developing interactive properties when it was “all new.”
Flashing forward to 2015, we live in a rewired civilization. Almost every aspect of our daily lives has changed with the many repercussions of the Internet and technological developments. Instead of hunkering down in front of bulky Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) and personal computer towers, we carry around slim and shiny smartphones that contain thousands of times the computing power that put men on the moon in the 60s.
To put it in perspective: Adele can tweet or post an Instagram and the bulk of the civilized world is notified in moments. Images we capture on far-flung adventures are on our Facebook feeds seconds later. The world has dramatically shrunk and sped up geometrically — all at the same time.
These changes bring disruption to our businesses and professional lives, but they cannot be denied. In my classes at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, where I teach Digital/Multimedia Storytelling and Brand Journalism and Content Marketing Strategies, I urge my adult learners to embrace the speed of change: to view it as an unending series of opportunities.
But for traditional marketers, and the brands they work for, this rate of change and disruption can be daunting. At a meeting this summer, where the demographic target of a proposed media buy for a fashion retailer was a millennial woman, the planners dismissed our digital suggestions and retreated to newspaper inserts and flyers. For a moment I thought I was being pranked… but that was not the case.
The media landscape is fragmenting and changing so fast that the industry itself is having challenges keeping relevant. A close read of the legendary Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report should be mandatory for anyone in marketing and communications, as over the years she has proven to accurately document and also successfully predict the tsunami of change that the Internet has brought to our personal and professional lives.
In the Out-of-Home (OOH) and Digital-Out-of-Home (DOOH) advertising space, some good news is apparent. While newspapers, magazines and cable television viewership is splintering or disappearing all together, we still navigate in the physical world. We still see billboards, and digital signage. We still go to malls, beauty salons, stadiums, concert halls, college campuses and more.
But many of the changes that have occurred in traditional media and marketing need to happen in the OOH space. It is time to build Intelligent-Out-of-Home (IOOH) media.
A large video wall in a mall running a loop of ads has little or no context. It isn’t compelling in 2015 and it shouldn’t be that appealing to brands and marketers. But a video wall in a packed University Student Union, that shows music videos with FM tune able audio, and that counts down to mobile-enabled trivia games every few hours where students can compete with other schools across the country… and be brought to you by Toyota for example, well that’s IOOH.
For the last six months I have been working with Blue Bite and a media company to produce a localized content channel for a few thousand locations. We worked hard to scour the Internet for the best in curated content for a specific type of location and audience. Tying the physical world to the teeming, rich and dynamic content that is Instagram, Medium, Twitter, Yelp, etc… that is IOOH.
Entering a modern supermarket, where over the takeout counter is featured a mango salad and a wild mushroom flatbread special, the retailer’s app allows a one-tap purchase after scanning a QR code, and the Internet of Things (IoT) enabled oven at home that fires up and moves the pizza stone into place before you have left the store, that is IOOH.
Heading to the airport for that dreaded early morning flight, ignoring the huge array of screens overhead, having your mobile phone guide you to the least busy coffee counter, the fastest security line, and the right gate, while pulling in your favorite news and entertainment content sources, with some of them sponsored and containing promotions, that is IOOH.
So, let’s get on with it. It’s time to stop kidding ourselves as marketers and brands. The mobile revolution is upon us. And as sensors fill our world with smart homes, appliances, cars and endless possibilities, we need to increase the intelligence of how we communicate brand messaging. The stacks of dead tree pulp with the pretty pictures in that beauty salon have only a short time left.
It’s time to start building Intelligent Out of Home.
Instructor and Lead Certificate Developer
University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies