Antony Yiu
Dec 13, 2022

Outdoor advertising in Hong Kong is far from dead

PHD's Hong Kong CEO Antony Yiu has a passionate response to a study previously published by Campaign by Hong Kong Baptist University on outdoor advertising.

Outdoor advertising in Hong Kong is far from dead

I was slightly disappointed when I read an opinion piece on Campaign Asia-Pacific about 'why Hong Kong’s outdoor advertising is underperforming'.

There is a fundamental flaw in the study by Hong Kong Baptist University quoted in the article. It does not take into consideration the evolution happening for outdoor advertising. The rise of pDOOH (programmatic digital out-of-home) and the link between pDOOH and app retargeting have made outdoor advertising much more measurable and accountable.

Gone are the days when the only metrics to measure the effectiveness of outdoor advertising were based on reach or, as the study quoted, on top-of-mind awareness and purchase intent. Markets nowadays have the role of looking at the entire consumer footprint across the purchase journey rather than singling out one single media channel and determining its effectiveness of it.

While I agree that the traditional standard 'poster' type of network buys on outdoor advertising may raise doubts about its effectiveness, I believe that as media agencies, we need to do more education to clients on how outdoor advertising has evolved. JCD Transport has done some exciting innovation work, such as their recent launch of the metaverse in Causeway Bay station and more upcoming innovations. JCD’s work will link outdoor advertising to online phone usage behaviour to complete the entire consumer lifecycle journey.

It would take a fool to believe that sticking a giant QR code on the poster would drive people to scan and interact with their sites or social media pages. Neither would people use their Android phones to leverage the NFC technology to get more information about the poster content. The lack of interaction by people is because many traditional creative agencies are still operating with a standard TVC and print layout and just adapting them to all outdoor and digital channels. The classic adaption by agencies would solidify the research results stated in the article that outdoor advertising is underperforming.

With the rise of pDOOH provided by vendors such as Hivestack, we can now deliver dynamic content to the users based on weather, stock index and various API plug-ins, on top of the time of the day or the day of the week. As a result, advertisers have much more flexibility in making outdoor advertising more highly related to their brand. As a result, outdoor advertising can be highly personalised and relevant to the people passing by.

Technology is readily available to reengage with the users through various DSPs coupled with location-based signals to further engage with the audience. It can even serve push notifications and specific banners in selected apps based on your encounter with outdoor advertising. Push notifications and detailed banners in selected apps allow advertisers to measure ROI and optimise in real time, leading to a perfect blend of traditional and digital advertising.

In addition, outdoor advertising that drives people to nearby stores is highly effective. Various footfall measurement technology partners can now measure outdoor advertising. The measurement helps link the effectiveness of various outdoor advertising to different marketing and even business objectives.

In short, outdoor advertising is far from underperforming or dead. However, it’s time to transform how creative and media agencies view outdoor advertising. Media agencies need to get involved early in the creative development stage, as outdoor creativity would significantly affect the creative ideas of each campaign.

With the advance of 3D technology, naked 3D billboards, and pDOOH, it’s the best time for advertisers to relook at how they deploy their creative in outdoor advertising, how to stand out from the crowd of standard network buy ads, which are still highly effective in driving brand recall and ad recall.

The key is to innovate, be agile and be results driven in your approach to outdoor advertising. The golden era of outdoor advertising is yet to come in Hong Kong.


Antony Yiu is the chief executive officer of PHD Hong Kong.

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