Simplicity a must for technology driven Outdoor media

I stupidly forgot to set Sky+ to record the final episode of Ashes to Ashes last Friday. This wouldn’t normally be a problem but my wife loves the show, must be something to do with Gene Hunt being such a real man, and she was out for the evening. I was playing a PC game with my youngest and didn’t notice the time until seventeen minutes into the drama. With no repeat on another channel scheduled soon, I would be in the sh*te with me’ Julie.

The BBC iPlayer would come to the rescue, I thought. On Friday evening the previous episode was available online, not what I wanted. No problem, we’ll wait until Saturday evening, after the Champions League final. Watch the bit I haven’t recorded using iPlayer on the PC and then recline on the couch to watch the rest with a proper sized picture at a decent volume. Wrong it was nearly half-an-hour of stop and starts, including a back to the beginning moment, before we were able to watch the final three-quarters on TV.

In the week it was announced Google TV is coming, the natural reaction is it’s all over for normal, linear TV and the advertising cash that supports much of it.

In reality if it has glitches like I experienced with the iPlayer, and it’s likely to have more, how much of the normal, passive TV experience is it likely to displace. The past is not always the best indication of the future, but, Web TV has been around before. Even the famously user-friendly Sky once had aspirations to give us an online type experience with their walled-garden Open service, complete with wireless keyboard.

Until the much trumpeted, on-demand, web like and social networking convergence on TV is as simple to use as; pushing a button for instant action, using a remote control a three year old and a granny can use, I predict a very niche market.

This leads me to Outdoor advertising. Its future is predicted by many to be dependent on engaging people to offer what advertisers want, conversations with their customers. This will invariably involve, initially at least, complicated technology and evangelisers saying how it will change the way people behave.

I remember over ten years ago being told, in five years time 80% of TV ads will be interactive, red button style. It was so clunky and un-rewarding the service will now just be remembered as an interesting experiment.

The bleeding-edge developments within Outdoor will not only have to be able to suffer the rigours of the out-of-home environment. The technology will need to function instantly and intuitively. It will have to do things people really want, not what technologists tell you they want.

Only then will brands spend budgets regularly, an absolute necessity for the health of any ad-funded media channel. Oh and don’t forget, ordinary billboards are really good too.