Traditional outdoor advertising has a new friend request…Mobile AR


Co-founder Ed Morris’ article in Medium explores the new landscape developing in outdoor advertising, the role mobile AR plays in it, and our recent project with Island Records and GIGGS..



Raise your hand if you’ve ever taken a selfie or got your friend to take a pic of you standing next to that amazing piece of street art or mural…yeah, me neither (promise!) but the reality is many people have.

Within the traditional out-of-home (OOH) advertising space, there is a certain type of outdoor communication that people all over the world love. It’s not billboards or hoardings…its street art. People travel all over the world to see it, take selfies with it and even pay people good money to give them tours of it.

Leading hand-paint outdoor advertising companies like Colossal Media have been successfully translating this interest in street art to the OOH advertising space for 15 years, regularly working with the world’s largest brands and agencies, creating amazing work that garners significant interest and recognition.

Giggs Big Bad…’ album AR activation mural

Giggs Big Bad…’ album AR activation mural

2019 will mark the first time that digital advertising spend overtakes traditional ad spend in the US, according to research by eMarketer. Digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising has increased 35% since 2010 and is projected to overtake traditional OOH ad spending by 2020 (PricewaterhouseCoopers).

This trend looks set to continue and it’s easy to see why — through advances in time and location data, advertisers now have the ability to track consumer movement in the real world and subsequently the effectiveness of the DOOH tactics that they employ. Additionally, the rise of programmatic DOOH transactions (think automation of buying and selling for DOOH ad inventory), is supporting significant operational and cost efficiencies.

Whilst traditional OOH is experiencing some growth too (be it at a far more gradual rate), it remains inherently passive and un-trackable, with brands paying for impressions rather than true consumer engagement — It’s genuinely hard to see a traditional billboard competing like for like with a digital billboard long term.

I’ve become extremely interested in OOH advertising professionally and in particular its intersection with mobile augmented reality (AR). There are several interesting global trends occurring here, not least the growing OOH & AR market sizes. Global OOH expenditure will be >$38BN by 2020 (Statista) and TechCrunch predicts that the AR/VR market will be worth $108BN by 2021, with 77% of that attributed to AR.


When you consider these markets and learn that AR is accessible on >1BN smartphones worldwide right now (SuperData), a projected 3.5BN smartphones by 2022 (ARtillry) and more than 3 in 4 of our largest generational cohort (Millennials) favor spending their cash on ‘experiences’ over ‘things’ and make up 3 out of 5 AR users currently (SuperData); you have a significant market opportunity.

By combining this market opportunity with this existing consumer behavior (namely people already seeking out and interacting with street art), it is extremely compelling to look towards what could be next. By combining creative OOH with mobile AR, brands have a framework to tell more engaging, socially shareable and newsworthy stories. Content that is anchored in a physical location that is important to the brand, yet is powerful enough to reach a wider multi-media audience — to transcend the physical and digital worlds, offline to online.

Brands have a significant opportunity to engage their audiences across mediums and create compelling content that not only enhances the tent pole event/activation itself but also maximizes the lead up and tail.

What’s more, mobile AR is not a future technology anymore. Sure, it will continue to evolve and improve but it’s here now and ready to show its worth. The pipes are laid and your access point is sitting in your pocket, or more likely, in your hand right now.

ARE2 App for Giggs/Island Records

ARE2 App for Giggs/Island Records

People are constantly in search of ‘AR’s killer app’ — the perceived use case that will pave the way to mass adoption. I would argue its already here and in fact is installed on many of our phones right now. Snap has been leading the charge in consumer mobile AR and Instagram will certainly be joining them once its AR image recognition functionality is available to all, imminently. It’s now just down to demonstrating valuable use cases and most significantly, data points and return on investment (ROI) to brand marketers.

ROI has to form the central facet of growth as this new marketing channel evolves and if it is indeed destined to thrive. This new media property has to spit out analytics that allow brand marketers to compare apples to apples, to weigh up the media channels available to them and to conclude that for a particular campaign, goal or KPI, that OOH + mobile AR makes sense. The good news is that these ‘success metrics’ are well-established and (relatively) easily obtained and aggregated into actionable reporting.

There have been several interesting recent branded content examples that have performed well on social: Nike + Fisherman Labs + SnapHBO/Game of Thrones at SXSWDallas Mavericks + Groove Jones.

Additionally, we saw significant and tangible positive ROI with a recent project for Island Records (part of Universal Music Group) for the release of ‘BIG BAD…’ the new album by UK rap artist, Giggs — 1/5 of all social impressions and engagements for the whole ‘BIG BAD…’ album release promo efforts were directly attributed to the AR wall activation. >90 secs average experience session length (brand dwell time).

I believe that over the next couple of years, OOH + mobile AR will mature into a new media property in its own right and I’m willing to go ‘all in’ on that view as it becomes my primary business focus going forward…

Thanks for reading (if you made it this far).



Originally published in Medium

Gate Reality