I read a great article on the evolution of television advertising published in the Harvard Business Review this week.  It was written by Shiv Singh, the Global Head of Digital for Pepsico Beverages. It is one thing to drive digital marketing for a company. It is quite another to do it for Pepsico. Mr. Singh has the perspective and credibility to speak with real authority. You should read the full article, but here are the three important changes he sees for digital branding in a nutshell:

  1. Engagement metrics will drive perceived value to the advertisers in our increasingly connected society
  2. “Location awareness” is a game changer
  3. Ads will become trailers, with the call to action quite possibly being further engagement, rather than a purchase per se

Singh goes on to list six implications of these changes for marketers, and while his insights are focused on television advertising, they are spot on. It is worth a few moments to apply his thinking to digital OOH, and to ponder the implications for our industry.

Engagement as an indicator of value is a notion whose time has come. Traditional media metrics tend to lean upon the concepts of impressions and recall, but engagement seems to be something on a much higher plane than either, and inherently more valuable to the advertiser. I’d go so far as to say that short of carefully constructed sales lift studies, measurable engagement may be a better proxy for effectiveness than anything else.It is one thing to recall a Pepsi commercial, and I am sure Mr. Singh and his colleagues would be thrilled that you did. It is quite another to engage with the Pepsi brand, whether by visiting a web site, scanning a barcode or accepting a coupon offer. Singh’s other key changes recognize this fact and play off of it.

For most people, location awareness certainly evokes the idea of mobile location-based services. But in this case it is much more than that. It refers to the importance of context in the effort to create engagement. Singh refers to a Pepsi campaign that linked a Foursquare promotion to television commercials. The context of the Foursquare check-ins drove additional, relevant content to the consumers. Engagement! In a digital signage context, a television campaign could start on TV, and have different branches in various out-of -home venues. The thread of the campaign might be picked up differently in a grocery environment than in a QSR environment, with different engagement cues and activation goals based on the context of the message. Now layer on the richness of mobile location-based services, and you add new dimensions in engagement and measurability.

The idea of the TV advertisement as a trailer for a longer story simply picks up on the preceding scenario. Rather than a TV ad being a 30-second end unto itself, it is an introduction to a multi-channel, multi-platform invitation for the consumer to connect with a brand. As the engagement moves outside the home, the opportunity to measure impact and success increases, through the use of smartphone apps, sales data, and venue traffic measurement technologies.

Singh’s article reveals the current thinking of digital marketers of big brands, and it is not the same old thing. It seems clear that if engagement, location awareness and multi-channel, connected campaigns are where the big spenders are headed, then it makes sense for them to embrace the role that DOOH will play in closing the deal with their customers and prospects. All these ideas are making me thirsty to refresh everything.