Why doesn’t outdoor advertising meet digital in China?

Excuse me while I put on my marketing and semi-serious hat on today. Walking around Shanghai and other large cities in Asia and you’ll see eyefulls (yeah, so what if that isn’t a word) of outdoor advertising. In fact, you’ll see outdoor advertising on top of outdoor advertising. With so many people living and working in urban areas – especially the tier 1 cities in China – the real estate for marketing a big outdoor campaign is big business.

Even in the short time I’ve been in Shanghai I keep noticing an increased amount of digital outdoor banners, screens, touchscreen taxis, and metro TV. The city is basically plastered with LCD and digital screens. And, as today’s picture below shows, behind these digital screens are computers. Computers that can do whatever you tell them to.

As an example of the reach, in 2008 Nielsen and Digital Media Group (DMG) released results of a joint study into the effectiveness of LCD screen advertising in Shanghai’s subway system over a period of two weeks. According to the results DMG’s 4,110 multimedia displays on four Shanghai subway lines were viewed by 3,055,000 passengers. I can’t seem to find the exact methodology behind this study but as a regular rider of the subway I can attest these screens are everywhere on the squeeze-fest that is the metro.

With so much technology around one wonders why so many of the advertising campaigns are mostly 1-way banner ads in digital photo or video form. That isn’t to say there aren’t any cool campaigns. Touch Media’s touchscreen taxi LCDs have videos and games customers can interact with and DMG have some entertaining content like their own exclusive subway soap opera.

Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places but it would be cool to see more of these outdoor ads and offer some sort of 2-way interaction through mobile devices, the Web, a competition, or existing online or offline communities. Personally, I’ve never lived in such an environment where so many digital natives congregate in one city in such close quarters. My hunch is that it’s going to take a lot more than a regular outdoor campaign to grab their attention away from their digital devices and stand out from the sea of other poster banners.


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2 thoughts on “Why doesn’t outdoor advertising meet digital in China?

  1. John

    “squeeze-fest” that made me laugh!
    On a more serious note: I think it’s a bad idea (even dangerous) if ads in public places can interact with its viewers. Just think, a driver on the road suddenly notice and starts to interact with the ad instead of focusing on the road.

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