Gabey Goh
Jun 29, 2016

OOH: The fight to stand out on the red dot

Is Singapore ahead of the curve or stuck behind roadblocks when it comes to creative out-of-home advertising executions?

OOH’s potential for immersive and gamified advertising will ensure its continued growth
OOH’s potential for immersive and gamified advertising will ensure its continued growth

The digital out-of-home (OOH) landscape in Singapore has been pretty busy of late with bespoke executions offering a more integrated and real-time means of engaging with commuters.

Although large segments of consumers are reachable through mobile and digital channels, a significant portion of any day is still spent outdoors, and this is where OOH advertising lays claim as a vital touchpoint. According to Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA), bus and rail ridership rose by 4.1 percent in 2015 to hit a daily average of 6.9 million. 

Despite the frantic activity, Kelly Khoo, CEO of Clear Channel Singapore (the nation’s biggest digital OOH media owner), doesn’t believe the island has hit peak in OOH. She points out that the medium will stand strong due to its ability to deliver communications to people “at the right time, in the right place and right mindset.” 

Statistics have shown that total media spend in Singapore has been gradually declining since 2013, while OOH media spend increases (by 17 percent in 2015). According to Nielsen, OOH ad spend in the island nation stood at about US$325 million in 2015.

A major driver of Singapore’s recent surge in creative OOH executions is largely the nation’s status as one of the markets with the highest penetration of digital OOH screens in the world.

According to the Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2015–2019 report by PwC, by 2019, the city state will see digital OOH advertising revenue account for 60.4 percent of total OOH advertising revenue, while exceptional growth in London will help the UK reach 53.7 percent. Hong Kong comes in second at 55.5 percent.

Recent campaigns Clear Channel has run on its screens include live gaming to promote ‘Keep Singapore clean’ campaign by NEA,  a GIF-producing photo booth that is colour-activated by Coca-Cola for ‘Taste the feeling’, and a live polling station for Captain America: Civil War.

“OOH complements the other mediums,” says Khoo. “Acting as a purchase point, a vending machine, a social feed or even a secondary TV screen that creates a direct line of interaction with mobile. It creates an immersive experience for consumer.”

A spokesperson for Moove Media, which leads in in-transport advertising, notes that OOH advertising has always been creative but may seem more so in recent years thanks to greater access to advertising resources and the rise of digital-savvy Singaporeans. The company pointed to recent campaign, the EVA Air Hello Kitty concept bus where one double-deck bus was plastered with Hello Kitty decals on the interior and the exterior. It was a hit on social media with Hello Kitty fans who shared the video more than 4,700 times in 48 hours. 

There’s certainly no lack of support from brand side, with Arthur Chang, head of Posterscope Singapore reporting that clients are open to taking a little more risk.

“More people are trying new things out and clients are more open to new things,” he adds. “OOH was never an afterthought in marketing considerations, but we’re now seeing more campaigns that incorporate technology such as NFC, QR codes or moving pictures, as the infrastructure is now in place.”

Chang says many marketers are trying to replicate what they do online with digital OOH—which includes the expectation of added visibility thanks to the digitisation of media assets. “The new generation of marketers are more savvy and are demanding more from OOH,” he adds. “From creative work to programmatic buys, much in the way the digital realm works.”

In 2014, Clear Channel, MediaCorp OOH Media, Moove Media and SMRT launched the Singapore Outdoor Audience Research (SOAR), software that provides marketers a way to evaluate OOH using a common set of metrics.

According to Moove Media, interactivity with consumers will become key to the next level of OOH advertising. The company recently used AR technology for PepsiCo’s #Pepsimoji at Dhoby Ghaut station to engage young commuters, who could interact with Pepsi-designed emojis.

But when asked if Singapore stands out in the region for its OOH executions, Chang says he believes the market is a couple of years behind neighbours Malaysia and Thailand. “When I travel for work, I see some great OOH work in these markets,” he adds. “It’s kind of embarrassing to see that Singapore is still a year or two behind.”

This is especially true when it comes to large LED-illuminated facade installations that currently grace the Mall Taman Anggrek in Jakarta, Saigon Times Square in Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok’s EmQuartier Mall and the PWTC building in Kuala Lumpur.

In his opinion, a major barrier keeping the OOH industry from going the distance is the country’s restrictive regulations. Singapore has strict rules on what is permissible in terms of advertising and the outdoor structures it is housed in. For example, no moving images can be put on any road-facing OOH structure as it may distract drivers.

“If you want to do any large LED-related facades at Marina Bay Sands, you’ll need to get clearance from Changi Airport,” says Chang. “It can’t be too bright just in case it distracts the pilots coming in.”

Chang notes that the OOH community has always done its best playing “within the playground” in coming up with creative solutions.

“But if you want out-of-the-box thinking, then there needs to be some expansion on what can be done,” he adds. “We will push the envelope on what is possible, work on being allowed to try things out and, if no one crashes, let us continue doing it.”

Our view: Hopefully there’s some room for compromise between public safety and truly inspiring OOH work. Have a question or comment? 

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