Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rise of the Digital Billboards Changing the Face of London

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rise of the Digital Billboards Changing the Face of London

Article excerpt

Byline: Gideon Spanier

DIGITAL technology has given new life to the outdoor advertising poster. Think of the new, giant illuminated structure on Old Street roundabout, which has been plastered with YouTube ads for Vice News, or the tower by the Westway flyover at White City, where Apple has a near-permanent residency to promote the iPhone.

Then there are the electronic billboards above the Euston underpass, which featured a promotion for Coldplay's latest album that was so popular that photos of the poster were retweeted 1400 times on Twitter. Fans of urban singer Sam Smith, pictured, also loved the illuminated billboard for his debut album at Vauxhall Cross. He got 10,000 likes on Instagram when he posted a photo of him standing in front of the ad.

What these campaigns have in common is the posters have been appearing on digital screens that did not exist until four or five years ago. The Westfield shopping centres and Heathrow Terminal 5 are new sites. Other places have been transformed with dramatic architecture such as Old Street roundabout, or had no ads previously such as Euston underpass, or have been digitised like the Tube escalator panels.

"It is changing the face of London," declares Jon Lewis, managing director of billboard owner Outdoor Plus, who describes digital as the most dramatic change in 150 years of outdoor ads.

The biggest poster sites at the busiest prime locations matter most to top advertisers such as Google, Apple and Sky. Call it the rise of super-premium digital outdoor, because an ad at one of these sites is an attention-grabbing expression of self-confidence -- on a par with running a TV commercial on X Factor or taking a double-page spread in a newspaper. "It creates stature and fame," says Lewis, who notes outdoor "tends to be the medium of choice for most other media". Sky is Britain's biggest outdoor advertiser.

High-definition screens make ads look better. Digital imagery and video can be updated frequently -- within minutes, in theory -- and it is possible to target ads by time of day. The technology also opens the way for ad space to be traded in real time -- a far cry from the established custom of booking billboard space for a fortnight. …

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