OOH industry envisages a future with beacons, at the launch of Presenz

15th Sep 2016

The world's oldest advertising medium is embracing one of its newest technologies, and the result - if the industry can pull it off - could spark a marketing revolution.

The out-of-home sector held its gaze on a rather modest-looking piece of tech this week; a small cube enabled with Bluetooth, known simply as a beacon. A beacon is able to tell a smartphone exactly where it is, allowing for an app to act upon this information in order to send a message that's relevant to time and place. The most obvious applications to date have been to place beacons in retail stores, sports stadiums and, more recently, on transport networks. The idea is that consumer engagement can be highly tailored, to encourage and rewarded through mobile interaction. So, for example, a drinks brand could offer a deal via a beacon-to-smartphone interaction whilst at a football match, or an app could reward a consumer with a special offer when they approach a nearby store.

To add to the beacon offering, very recently Google has launched its own 'proximity tech'. Google's Nearby gives real-world objects their own URL - from a bus shelter to a parking meter - allowing for simple interactions to be made without the requirement for the end consumer have have a brand app already installed.

"Location-based marketing revolves around you," says Gavin Talbot, commercial director of Proxama, a business specialising in 'proximity marketing'. "It works between zero and 50 metres and can be placed outdoors, in a TV, on a bus...and it's extremely accurate and knows precisely where I am. It can also awake apps and broadcast URLs. The opportunities for brands are huge."

This has got the out-of-home sector excited. So much so, that a host of OOH businesses - including Primesight, Airport Media, Exterion, Ubiquitous and Mobile Media - have launched Presenz, a dedicated 'beacon network' to help adopt the tech and accelerate the opportunities for clients.

"We want to better understand the opportunities that beacons create for our advertisers and that opportunity is being realised now," says Mungo Knott, marketing and insight director, Primesight.
"There are around 2,000 beacons already being incorporated into out-of-home facilities and environments across the UK - and given the sector already reaches 98% of the population, we see out-of-home as a natural fit for their proliferation."

Some OOH experts are keen to experiment, but urge the industry not to see beacons as an isolated network. "It should be complementary to out-of-home advertising," says Shaun Gregory, CEO, Exterion. "We need to ask: 'where does this add value?'." Gregory warns that beacons should not be used as a network that mindlessly pumps out messages to consumers. "That is unintelligent," he says. "However, it becomes very interesting to me if we can use the data to make the advertising smarter."

Others agree, and argue that it will be crucial that beacons are not used as an isolated channel; instead they should be placed in the context of so-called omnichannel marketing.
This should be linked to a well-considered strategy to secure consumer buy-in. With ad-blocking on the rise, the challenge will be to ensure solid consumer benefit that creates genuine value.

That isn't just the offer of a discount, or an enjoyable mobile engagement - but a simple and elegant user experience with the highest regard paid to privacy and reward.