London put its “glad rags’ on through Digital Out Of Home (DOOH) media to welcome Olympic visitors and make them feel part of the games from the time they landed at the airport, when they got on the tube and of course when they walked around town.

The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games were a wonderful opportunity to showcase the influence that digital signage can have on a city and its visitors. It also demonstrated the kind of impact this medium can have on businesses and events.
With an influx of visitors from all over the world, the population of London almost doubled during the Olympics. The city was truly multilingual and multi cultural – even more than usual. So the out of home proposition needed to be creative; informative; inclusive and spectacular. And it certainly was.

A good example of this was BP Olympic campaign. The company used DOOH in all shapes, digital and traditional. Its campaign was about brand awareness, communicating its core values, including green solutions. It highlighted the importance of people “off the track’, non-athletes such as street cleaners, nurses and handymen, who also played their part in making the Games a success. DOOH’s flexibility allowed it to bring up to the minute updates for visitors about town and on public transport.

Social media

Social media and online played an important role too. Through BP’s Facebook page people could nominate themselves for the chance to win London 2012 tickets, which two lucky women won. The nominees were selected using Grand Visual’s OpenLoop technology and their photos were published directly to multiple DOOH formats across London. Teaming up with Channel 4 the company persuaded the nation to tweet good luck messages to the athletes. And yes, encouraging messages and news on the wins were shared almost immediately on screens across London. There were a total of 2.5m tweets. These were the first Tweeter games!
BP’s DOOH campaign was planned and booked by Mindshare and Kinetic and run across CBS Outdoor’s XTP (cross track projection) in tube stations, JCDecaux’s Transvision screens at the airport and main train stations and on ECNLive.

A study from Kinetic Worldwide, a planner and buyer of OOH media, unveils that engagement with the games was very high – despite Londoners’ initial apprehension. The city was fitted with large screens were people could watch the games. Three quarters of the UK watched the games in some form out of the home, rising to 83% of 18 to 24 year olds, according to Kinetic’s report. Although some initial news reports of empty streets, footfall for retailers in the heart of the capital was actually up 16% during the Olympic Games, compared with the same period in 2011. Westfield Stratford City attracted more than 5 million visitors throughout the games and larger retailers particularly benefitted, with John Lewis reporting a 22% year on year increase in sales at their stores.

London airports were a real “welcome gateway’ to the country, portraying Britishness and helping visitors to find their way round as soon as they landed.
Steve Cox, Marketing Director at JCDecaux Airport confides: “Arrivals is a harder area to sale advertising than departures. But the games were a great opportunity to prove how well this canvas can work. The medium is part of the message and the numerous campaigns we ran at the airport were a good example of DOOH’s core objectives: generating lasting memories; capturing and engendering a mood; and driving talkability.’

These games, as most people say, were the “public transport games.’ People were encouraged to commute instead of drive. Every Olympic ticket received a free travel card. 60 million passengers travelled on the Underground during the Games, an increase of 30% year on year.
CBS Outdoor dominates London public transport advertising network. Gavin Brice, Franchise Director at CBS says that the digital legacy of the games is hugely important for the evolution of the industry.

“Providing free WiFi in the tube proved a great success. We are hoping to see more interactive use of digital posters in the next year. In fact, outside the games, only 0.2% of campaigns ran interactive content. During the Olympics this rose to 25%. We hope that live streaming and tweeters feeds, become more part of the norm for DOOH.’

CBS screens carried campaigns from BMW, British Airways, Nike and Visa to name a few. It also partnered with Virgin to offer WiFi in the tube and offered commuters the chance to download The Telegraph newspaper on their iPads.

Kinetic’s Nick Mawditt, global director of insight and marketing at Kinetic, points out: “Mobile phone capabilities have really boosted what advertisers can do with DOOH. Back in 2008 during the Beijing Games, only 12% of people in the UK had a smartphone. This time around that number sits at over 50%. In 2008 you would have had to ask what a tablet was. In 2012 over 11% of households in Britain have one. So to say much has changed in the way we follow large scale events in the past couple of years would be an understatement.’

The importance of social media, interactive technologies and mobile devices, can’t be ignored after London 2012 Games. DOOH media owner, media planners and buyers need to embrace it and use it. DOOH hardware and software manufacturers must include it in their offering.