My Weekly OOH Time
by Nick Coston
Media Buyer and OOH Agent at Coston Booking Agency
Damn you Hollywood!
My favorite part of the Blade Runner sequel, Blade Runner 2049, or “Harrison Ford Age 90” as my son called it, that came out around 4 years ago, was when Ryan Gosling was zipping around in his flying car and floating digital billboards targeting drivers were speaking to him. Great creative I thought, and technically quite beautiful.
But think about it, that’s only 28 years from now. Do we really think we will driving flying cars and catching those targeted floating ads on a regular basis? Talk about being distracted at driving, can you imagine driving a flying car, looking at your phone, seeing spooky, talking ads floating next to you, while trying to follow someone? No way, we can barely drive from Baltimore to Philadelphia without passing 3 car wrecks, 2 breakdowns, 22 texts and and an emergency bathroom break. And we didn’t even leave the ground.
Dig deeper, 28 years ago it was 1993 when I had thicker, darker hair. The only difference in OOH from then to now are bulletins printed on vinyls, digital boards and brighter lights. Brighter lights? That’s it? And still my car won’t fly, heck it barely goes above 65 mph here in the northeast. Maybe in 2049 a digital display will say “hi Nick”. Ok, that’s kind of cool. But then I’d probably crash my flying Ford Pinto into a light pole.
We have some new formats, more mobile truck units, digital shelters, boats with digital bulletins cruising past us as we lay on the beach. All great products. But aren’t all these just billboards presented in different formats? They all work, they all convey their messages, but are we wowed? Do we feel like we are on a Disneyland ride like they do in Blade Runner? What about that big tease cartoon from 1962, The Jetsons? 1962? That’s almost 60 years ago. Still no flying cars, department stores in the sky and funny one-piece 1978 disco outfits unless you visit Cape Cod in August. Certainly no floating billboards.
I’ll say this, the closest I’ve seen here in the U.S. that comes close to futuristic displays are the WOW Media Digital units in Southern California, you know those, they hang over the busy streets, massive 20 x 60 digitals, center reads. With full motion. Now that’s Blade Runner kind of stuff. Maybe because Harrison Ford lives near there? He has that kind of pull? Alas, for now there are only 10 of these in use in the LA market. But they are what I’m talking about. I see why they call it WOW.
Yeah we have programmatic digital ads, where we can target specific demographics and impressions but what percentage of displays do that even in 2021? There are roughly 343,000 billboards in the U.S. with around 10,000 plus being digital. While digital units keep growing, they still are over-shadowed by static boards. And zoning regulations, And don’t forget those pesky large advertisers that still haven’t bought into digital. Back in 2006 when digitals hit the streets, a top Clear Channel Outdoor executive assured me that “your client will be on digitals within 2 years, they will come around, just keep pounding them”. It’s 2021, and they still are not on paid digitals. That executive? Long gone. You know who you are. So much for pounding.
My big picture point here is that as what we all know but rarely discuss, the billboard industry moves forward at a snail’s pace. It’s not Blade Runner, not The Jetsons. Maybe Minority Report, but I’ll save that one for another piece. We are bound by regulations, zoning, cost factors, profit margins, and now coming off a deadly, budget killing pandemic, we will be lucky to see floating, targeted copy digital billboards in another 100 years. You know, the ones that call me by my name and tell me that Nutella is on sale. What? It is? Where?
Sadly, I’m still stuck with a 200 Weekly TRP showing of static posters in Western North Carolina. Damn you Hollywood!
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