By Michele Munro

In the age of sensory overload and social media dominance, the challenge for 2014 is for out of home media to continue to innovate and remain the cool kids on the block.

Outdoors is where you want to be in our beautiful country – and just like there’s nothing better than chilling outdoors at a braai with friends and family – there really isn’t anything to beat the impact a top quality, brilliantly executed outdoor campaign can create for a brand.

Sitting in horrendous traffic, listening to boring radio and BANG! You’re confronted with a real steaming cup of McDonald’s coffee that you simply can’t ignore (or you make a point of checking out the Santam billboard on Sandton Drive – which actually changes the number of days the driver has gone without texting in the traffic – to see how she’s doing).

On my wish list for 2014 is definitely MORE of these kinds of campaigns that are conceptualised specifically for outdoor and really talk to commuters and work for brands. The recent original Tabasco street pole campaign is a brilliantly executed out of home (OOH) campaign that has captured people’s imagination and created interest and conversation for this legendary 145-year-old brand.

Comprising huge cut-outs – almost three metres high – featuring quirky, unusual characters, the witty campaign execution appeals to motorists to make mealtimes more interesting in a fun and engaging way. Short, sharp and humorous copy lines such as “If you don’t like fish, don’t put Tabasco on it” definitely got the brand noticed afresh. Clever Afrikaans wordplay such as “Van Toebroodjies na Sjoe-broodjies” extended the campaign, making it even more unique and memorable.

[Check out our Pinterest board of Michele’s choice of creative OOH here.]

A definite trend is the growth of digital. Many more new digital sites are being erected everywhere. Talking LED, who can ignore the Audi billboards with real LED lights or the Anglo American wrap where the miners helmets light up? Bring on more show and tell.

Citilites are growing in popularity and have immense stand-out appeal. These internally illuminated billboards offer top quality lighting, delivering crystal clear, visible branding, which simply can’t be overlooked.

Whatever the brief, WOW outdoor delivers impact. Remember the beautiful Mandela tribute billboards in December that reflected a nation in mourning?

There are challenges in any industry. In OOH, the stress of site approvals or absence thereof and the lack of bespoke creativity are some of the issues that need to be addressed. But instead of just bemoaning the challenges, we need to embrace them, streamline administrative functions, standardise formats like they do in Europe and project-manage campaigns more efficiently and effectively. We should showcase, reward and share brilliant OOH creativity, and work towards making wallpaper, run-of-the-mill billboard advertising extinct.

In my perfect media world there would be specialised OOH creative agencies where creative OOH would be the hero. I believe the more creative and innovative we are, the more advertising spend will be allocated to outdoor. For example, airports are a huge growth opportunity for us. There’s so much more we can do at airports, with a little faith, creative thinking and budget…

The ultimate OOH real estate has to be Times Square in New York. It is just so vibrant, full of colour and alive with all types of imaginable outdoor advertising – competing for your immediate attention. It’s both a sensory overload and a visual treat

Clutter is a challenge we need to be conscious of, but we have so much space in SA, which lends itself to fantastic OOH opportunities. There’s a lot more we can do to promote a greener environment. For example, the BP OOH campaign highlighting how hundreds of old vinyl billboards have found new lives as backpacks, pencil cases and chair bags for primary school children across South Africa is truly inspiring. I believe we can find more ways to continuously recycle old material efficiently.

Bus shelters provide an eye-catching canvas for memorable OOH campaigns that can be used effectively. Engaging international bus stop campaigns that stand out include one for Ikea, where the bus stop features a couch, curtains and side table. Other simple, yet conspicuous executions were created for the launch of the movie UP, featuring real balloons. The engaging Coca-Cola “grip bottle” made you actually stick to it! I hope to see more WOW outdoor campaigns of this ilk in SA in 2014.

Giant-sized building wraps are impossible to ignore. In instances when the building is being built/renovated, creative building wraps do a double job by turning an eyesore into something of beauty. It’s not a cheap option, but the impact is massive. I predict more building wraps in the future. The recent tactical Nando’s ‘Peri New Year’ building execution is currently one of my favourites.

The advantage of OOH advertising is that the sky is literally and figuratively the limit. If you can imagine it – we can do it outdoors!

Michele Munro is the founder and managing director of MMAP, an OOH sales company.

This article first appeared at The Media Online