Monday, August 8, 2011

Digital Out-of-Home Media - its possibilities for the Philippines

When I got this invite to attend a lunch with people from Digital Out-of-Home Media (or DOOH, for short) I thought about it several times. After all, I was not a huge fan of outdoor billboards and LED screens especially along EDSA and main roads. I was concerned about driving safety and felt that anything that would tend to let drivers take their eyes off the road, even for a few seconds, was risky to the riding public.

But it was also my chance to learn a little more about the industry so with an open mind, I went to the forum. It was a whole day affair for members of the outdoor media industry but the press people were able to listen to some of them over lunch.

(L-R): Robert Michaels, Manolo Almagro, Lloyd Tronco

Robert Michaels (President, Signage Division at Digital View, Inc.) and Manolo Almagro (Digital Experience Strategist for Jollibee/Zenith Optimedia) gave some insights on how outdoor digital media is being used in the United States and Europe. Lloyd Tronco, Executive Director, Philippine Center for Out-Of-Home Media Research and Science, also fielded questions from media.

Personally, I would rather see uncluttered streets rather than these burgeoning mountains of billboards. I am also a bit concerned that moving advertisements can actually be more distracting than huge, still billboards. So the location of these digital media should also be considered.

Here are some examples of outdoor digital media in other countries:

Digital media helps to declutter highways and malls

This wall ad has a sensor. As it senses a pedestrian walking in front
of it, the sensor activates the built-in cameras in the ad
making it seem as though the pedestrian is being photographed by paparazzi.

Here's an ad for domestic violence using facial recognition technology.
When it senses you looking away, the ad shows a husband beating up his wife;
as soon as you turn your head to gaze at the ad, the couple look okay.

In this mall, the digital media was incorporated into its "look".

This one is so cute! It is a high-tech application of digital media outdoors.

I know outdoor advertising cannot be totally eliminated, at least in the short- to medium-term. But the form that it takes can evolve to newer modes to accommodate things such as driving safety, environment-friendly advertising, and overall personal safety. I can see some possibilities for the Philippines:

1. The clutter of billboards along highways can be combined and placed in strategically located digital LED boards. Imagine how much more sky we can see if we can put a thousand huge billboards into, say, 10 LED boards spaced apart along the same highway.

2. Newer technologies allow LED screens to take in ambient lighting and adjust the screen's brightness depending on whether it is day or night, cloudy or bright. Some LED screens I see along EDSA can be blinding at night since the brightness is the same whether day or night.

3. Outdoor digital media need not be commercial advertising alone. I see it as a channel for public service as well. In the United States, there are amber alerts (alerts for missing persons) sent out via these LED screens. Why can we not use those same LED screens here in the Philippines, a disaster-prone country, to send out emergency announcements, safety instructions and similar public service announcements?

For now, I am reserving my opinion regarding the use of all sorts of advertising along major roads and highways. In everything, there are pros and cons and in the end it is a matter of balance. I think digital out-of-home media can be put to good use but it is important to study where it is placed, how it is used, and what messages it communicates. 

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