Let's go 'Back to the Future' of digital out-of-home advertising


Oringally Posted on Digital SignageToday

By Jeff Gunderman, President, EYE Corp Media

Thirty years ago on Oct. 21, 1985, the “Back to the Future” franchise was born. The three-part series began with time travel into the past, but in “Back to the Future Part II,” Doc and Marty traveled to 2015, where the movie predicts how out-of-home advertising might look in the then “Future.”

Well the future is now, and as the wildly popular movie trilogy celebrates its 30th anniversary, it’s a great time to examine the foresight of filmmakers Stephen Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis in their representation of the future of OOH ads.

“Back to the Future Part II” takes Marty to the Hill Valley Courthouse Square, where he first passes what can only be described as “Wild Postings” pasted up on the walls of buildings. He then passes a static billboard. Both are representative of OOH as it exists today, and has existed since the first roadside advertising was introduced in the 1830s, including large-format AmericanPic2 posters, which originated in New York when Jared Bell began printing circus posters in 1835.

Spielberg and Zemeckis appreciated the staying power of traditional OOH and how even as technology changed, the value of this format would continue to have a strong place in advertising.

When Marty steps out of the ally and enters the square, though, he observes cars flying and then sees his first futuristic OOH ad: a holographic shark jutting out of the movie theatre to promote “Jaws 19.” His second OOH ad experience is a projected billboard for a new hover car conversion, “The Skyway Flyer.”

These two ad representations, which at the time were only futuristic visions, are not far off of how OOH has progressed since the launch of the trilogy.  Although fairly accurate in representing what advertising looks like in 2015, the animation technology movies had back in the 1980s was not advanced enough to even remotely represent the quality and realism that today’s OOH advertising can achieve.

Since OOH advertising had not really had any major advancements in the 100 years leading up to 1985, the simple vision that the next 30 years would lead to so much change, was in and of itself remarkable.

Technology has played a big role in OOH media advancement, particularly over the past 15 years. Today, media companies and advertisers have numerous options to accomplish a holographic lifelike shark, or a projection such as “The Skyway Flyer” ad.  New technology advancements have made the type of advertising imagined in the movie a reality. This technology includes 3D projection, 3D digital screens that do not require glasses, special programming and augmented reality options, which allow viewers to see the effect with the help of a mobile device. And production companies like Monster Media and Grand Visual have begun to spring up to provide the high-tech programming some of the new out-of-home media requires.

There are numerous technology advancements in the OOH media space that were likely not even thought possible back in the 1980s: digital screens with high-definition and touchscreen capabilities, the ability to link the screen to a mobile-Web experience and the connectivity with a mobile device. Pic3

Some examples of how close “Back to the Future Part II” really was in predicting the way OOH would be in 2015:

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The rate of change and technology evolution is growing exponentially, so if that DeLorean finds its way to 2045, marketers would be clamoring to know what advertising will look like then.

And if Doc was right back in 1985 and there aren’t any roads, there will likely be some pretty cool OOH ads greeting hovercraft drivers along their journeys. And who knows, their prediction that the Cubs might win the 2015 World Series is also a possibility. Cubs fans, cross your fingers!

Jeff Gunderman is president of EYE Corp Media, an out-of-home media firm focused on reaching consumers on the path to purchase where they shop, dine, commute and play. Jeff has spent time on the client side as head of U.S. marketing for a division of Kodak as well as time in on-line direct response media. For the past 7 years, Jeff has been focused on out-of-home and digital place-based media, as well as mobile and social and the role mobile, social and location play in the out-of-home media space. He leads the Mobile Integration Committee for the Digital Place-based Advertising Association as well as sits on the Interactive Committee for the Out of Home Advertising Association of America and the Location Committee for the Mobile Marketing Association. You can him on Twitter at @JeffGunderman.