For decades, out-of-home advertising allowed marketers to captured consumer attention, a big canvas for powerful creative executions. Today, that canvas is often a screen of moving images that adapts to engage target audiences as they walk, drive, wait, or ride. In our series DOOH trending, we showcase how brands are embracing digital out-of-home advertising through smart technology innovation.

Based on a recent survey from Magna Global, out-of-home (OOH) advertising grew 4.3% globally last year to reach $8.2 billion in advertising spend even as traditional categories such as radio and print declined.

Spending on OOH advertising increased despite decreases in spending of more common media methods, such as traditional linear advertising.

New Capabilities Spur Growth

New capabilities that include new programmatic advertising techniques are driving exploding growth in the space, according to research firm eMarketer. Digital is adding a raft of new capabilities to OOH:

  • Creative Rotation. While it once it took days or longer to swap messages, marketers can now change out ads on digital out-of-home screens in an hour or less, matching images to conditions such as the weather or the win of a favorite sports team at a venue nearby.
  • Technology Integration. DOOH vendors are integrating their services with digital advertising platforms such as DSPs (demand-side-platforms) to help media buyers include them in their broader digital media buys.
  • Added Data. From a single dashboard, the buyers can include data to match their broader goals, ordering the out-of-home placements along with a wider programmatic advertising campaign.
  • New Targeting. The buyers can often use data to have the types of targeting they expect on other types of screens. From the dashboard, the media buyer can reach specific audiences looking at those screens, even sometimes coordinate the types messaging that the consumers have seen at home. That lets marketers increase a campaigns effectiveness while avoid a lot of unnecessary duplication.
  • Timing and Sequencing. DOOH messages can work in tandem with each other as a consumer passes them during a ride, drive, or walk. The ads are not only day-parted but also shown in an effective sequence for maximum impact as someone travels through an area.
  • Interactivity. At bus stops, train stations, airport lounges, and other spots people wait, QR codes can encourage them to use their smartphones to interact with the screens to access more information or special offers.
  • New Screens. As “Smart Cities” become more commonplace, screens and projections integrate into building facades, in elevators, on movie theater lobby walls and floors, supermarket shopping carts, airport walkways, and screen-bearing trucks moving through city streets — all new ways of grabbing attention and engaging prospective customers.

Commuters on the London underground view images through digital screens during their commute.

“Digital techniques and programmatic platforms are giving out-of-home advertising new capabilities,” says Angel Munoz, Product Development & Tech Partnerships Lead Latin America for advertising technology company Xaxis. “Marketers can now find and reach target audiences and measure digital out-of-home’s effects in driving the outcomes they desire.  This creates opportunties for advertisers to connect with consumers in new ways and vendors to help serve up these new capabilties.  The vendors that can help to quantify and measure these audiences will have an advantage.”

Differentiating By day, time — and device

Picture two brands, one a beverage company that sells morning brews, the other with popular beers. They may both want to advertise to commuters, but one’s messages will be most effective on weekday mornings, while the other will likely get better results during the evenings on days closer to the weekend.

With DOOH technologies, they can share the same screens by placing their messages at different days and times. Plus, they can further tailor their messages to the demographic profiles of the audience segments in each specific locale — to income levels, climate conditions, local enthusiasms such as sports teams, the mountains or the beach.

In stores, proximity locators can detect enabled phones and trigger tailored ads as customers approach. Digital media buying platforms can even match shopping data from credits cards or a store’s registered customers.

Some experimental billboards are using biometric scanning to understand age gender and even facial expression. The ability to understand foot traffic, engagement patterns and audience demographics are clear advantages to providers such as ISM Connect, where the camera is pointing at targettable audiences and not back at the advertising itself, as with traditional out of home billboards.

Overcoming Concerns

As technology evolves, advertisers will grapple with objections and understand local regulations. “The collection of mobile-phone data raises privacy concerns,” notes The Economist. “And criticisms of the online-ad business for being opaque, and occasionally fraudulent, may also be lobbed at the OOH business as it becomes bigger and more complex.”

But Jean-Christophe Conti, CEO of media buying company VIOOH, tells the magazine he believes the out of home industry will not suffer from the challenges beset other digital marketing categories, and that in fact out-of-home platforms will learn from the missteps of digital advertisers who came before.

Certainly, digital signage is not going away, as marketers look for ways to break through clutter and reach desired consumers with their messages.

Done right, digital out-of-home advertising combines the best of what old-line media planners want — impactful ads, writ large — as well as the kinds of data and targeting that advertising buyers on advanced trading desks desire. Digital out-of-home advertising will surely entice ever larger media spends.

Dorian Benkoil oversees The Verticals Collective newsletter, teaches graduate-level media management courses at Columbia University and Baruch College, and through Teeming Media, crafts thought leadership on media business and technology.

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