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Digital Ads are like Print, but tomorrow they’re more like Out Of Home

I’m old enough to have worked in media before what we know as Digital existed. I worked in magazine publishing in the nineties, tracking discussions and deals on record cards and deciding where editorial and advertising pages went on a paper-based “flat-plan”. Then the internet, mobiles, applications and the whole digital revolution came along and everything changed.


Slowly but surely over the last 20 years or so, digital advertising has sneaked up on and overtaken “traditional” media advertising – classifieds, print, radio, outdoor, TV. According to eMarketer, 2019 is the year when in the US digital advertising will overtake spend on traditional media as a whole, with digital ad spend increasing 19.1%, to $129.3 billion, while traditional advertising will fall 19%, to $109.5 billion.


Advertising and marketing has transitioned from bits of paper to bits and bytes and we have added great complexity to everything. Long gone are the days of the majority of media being bought and sold directly by media planners, buyers and sellers armed with simplistic audience and demographic data. Many will argue that’s a good thing. Others though argue that click fraud and brand safety issues are proof that the digital pendulum has swung too far. Put simply, I don’t see a huge difference between today’s digital advertising and the print industry of old.


For example, if I buy a print ad in the Guardian newspaper or a digital ad on their website or app, the principle is the same. The property owner, Guardian Media Group, makes space for the advertisement within its editorial content. Both print and digital are 2D, flat media, one paper-based, the other screen-based. Regardless of how “native” the creative is (we used to call them advertorials!), the advertisement is inherently interruptive in format.


Why might this be different in the future? Why do I believe the future of digital advertising will be more like Out Of Home advertising?


As I wrote about in my previous post, The case for Darabase, many of the leading digital companies and thinkers globally expect Immersive or Spacial to be the fourth computing platform. Increasingly our digital world will be placed in the context of our physical world. Instead of viewing websites or apps on a flat screen, we will experience and engage with digital content spatially through a lens. Today that is a smartphone camera but shortly will be a pair of smart-glasses. This spatial computing medium, the overlaying of an augmented reality on top of our physical reality, is three dimensional.


Let’s say as well as my print ad campaign, I’m booking some Out Of Home media too. I decide to go big and book Piccadilly Lights to really make a splash on London’s ultimate digital screen. Whilst the Ad Unit is 2D, the medium is 3D, with layers of ownership. In the print and digital campaign the property owner is the Guardian. But who’s the owner for Piccadilly Lights? To book the campaign I might go to an OOH specialist agency such as Posterscope, but the media owner is Ocean Outdoor – I could choose to book directly with them instead. So is Ocean Outdoor the property owner? Well no, actually it’s Landsec who also owns the property behind the Piccadilly Lights.


Layered beneath (physically and/or metaphorically) every outdoor advertising unit owned by say JC Decaux or Clear Channel, is a physical property owner. In partnership they have followed a set of rules set by laws and regulated by local and national government to get and give their permission for the advertising unit to appear on their property. They share (in)directly all revenue derived from the campaigns.


OOH media companies partner with a broad range of businesses and bodies, offering value in terms of revenue and services, to be able to leverage their locations with Ad Units. These partners include property owners, management companies, city councils and airport authorities.


Right now the spatial medium is being built by experienced technical professionals and experts who have spent most of their careers in digital businesses. It’s no wonder that it is being thought about like “traditional digital”. It may be a 3D point cloud on the physical world but it is being constructed as essentially a flat digital earth.


I believe that to successfully create a layered and three dimensional digital future, like today’s OOH, it’s vital to engage and reward the stakeholders in the “base layer” – the physical, real-world.


Ori Inbar of Super Ventures and coiner of the term “AR Cloud” recently said,


”The Web Economy was defined by “clicks on links” (CPM/CPC). The AR Cloud-based spatial economy will transition to what I like to call “clicks on bricks””


In my opinion, the owners of those bricks need to be included in the plan.


That’s why we’re building Darabase, the global platform to manage and monetise AR content and permissions on the physical world.


If you would like to learn more and discuss how we could help you control your reality in this exciting and evolving Geo-AR world, please get in touch.


Please subscribe to our newsletter here to stay in touch. Feel free to comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic, and if you know anyone who is interested in this topic, please do share so I can hear from them too.


Dominic Collins

CEO & Co-Founder, Darabase

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