This post is by Keith Lammie, Regional Director at Primesight.

Can billboards change the future of Scotland forever… It was September 2013 when this conversation really began and we engaged with both the Better Together and the Yes campaigners on how we could support them and plan campaigns that would help deliver the crucial support that they both required.

Both meetings took a similar but unusual and unexpected direction where the clients themselves were convincing us, the out-of-home media owners, of all the benefits that outdoor advertising can offer and how they both must have the best locations. I guess looking back when you have two brands that are lined up for a duel on a single day and an advertising platform which is a finite resource (it's billboards not oil that I am referring to) this really starts to create a sense of urgency. Of course one major reason that the clients quoted behind their choice of outdoor was that it lives in and is owned by the community, with frames having been there sometimes for generations; with local communities witnessing for years every new soap powder, car launch or community message appearing and changing every two weeks. It would seem that the frame itself has built huge credibility of displaying messages that are believed. When you compare this opportunity of stand out and ownership with that of other media that carries content, you can start to see why outdoor is 1st on the pick list for marketing teams responsible for political campaigns.

Interestingly, you would have thought that the two campaigns would have been tripping over themselves to book the same panels, but with two different briefs and data detailing audience segments that needed to be targeted, it actually transpired that the most important tool to put in action was Route. Having only been launched 18 months earlier and with a £19 million investment by the industry, Route enabled us to deliver very accurately on briefs according to the client requirements, often with frames in different locations. Based on 34,000 passive GPS trackers and a series of questions, we know more about who sees every single frame and what their journey behaviour is like than ever before.

There is another critical ingredient in the mix: the creative. As we see the final two creatives live in the closing few days, it is clear that the two sides of the Scottish referendum are pursuing very different but equally strong communication strategies. Better Together follows the thought process that people vote with their pocket; its creative illustrates a flipping pound indicating that if the coin falls on its 'Yes' side the voters may lose their pound. The Yes campaign's creative, on the other hand, 'offers' a better future demonstrating a baby's hand resting in that of an adult's. Even at a first glance both messages are immediately clear and the battle of hearts and minds is instantly conveyed. We all know that a great billboard has to be clear and clutter free and now we have the advantage of being able to tap into resources like Primedesign that assess the effectiveness of the OOH creative. This is absolutely crucial in making sure that beautiful is also met with practical.

It is great planning that delivers a message directly to those that you need to see it most, in the locations they regularly occupy, with a creative that provokes an immediate reaction… The billboards people see can act as a primer causing them to share their thoughts and opinions using mobile and social media (e.g. the recent heavy use of #indyref on social channels).

There is one recent fascinating piece of neuroscience that helps explain just why billboards really can determine the future of Scotland and that is the five stages through which OOH works: arousal, attention, memory, attitude and behaviour. Billboards deliver novelty, size and stature acting as a low level primer. Attention stimulates memory and memory is a substitute for deep processing and improving memory. Memorabilty builds familiarity which is needed for awareness, recognition and preference. Familarity is the pre cursor to trust…..and it is trust that will influence decision making (Source: Every step of the way, Dr Jane Evans & Dr Joanna Gibbons).

Outdoor has done more than tried to persuade voters one way or the other. It has fundamentally energised the campaign by creating a talking point at every street corner, making it virtually impossible (or very uncomfortable) to sit in the undecided camp. It has caused people to think deeply on the matter, become better informed and make up their minds before they walk out of their homes on the 18th of September.

With all recent polls indicating that this will be a race that will go down to the wire and that every single one of the swing votes must be fought for, billboards provide the perfect platform to keep influencing and turning a switherer into a voter even as they make their final pre referendum commute to the polling station.