Out of home: rising above the clutter

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In a fully mobile world, where the average person spends hours a day on their smartphone and targeted ads are standard, out of home (OOH) can seem a little out of date. Don’t write it off yet though – it appears to be enjoying something of a resurgence. Many brands including, perhaps ironically, the big tech brands such are investing a huge amount in this medium; Apple, Netflix, Amazon and Google are four of the 10 largest spenders on billboards. The figures back this up: outdoor ads were the only ‘traditional’ media category to show growth in the US in 2018, with an estimated $33.5bn in revenue, with digital out of home (DOOH) being the main driver with growth of 16%.

What’s behind the renaissance of outdoor advertising? There are three key drivers: it’s impactful, innovative and effective.

Impact

In a world of palm-sized screens, the sheer size of a billboard and its large, uncluttered layout give it impact that a mobile ad would find it very difficult to deliver. What’s more, while consumers can – and do – ad block on their mobiles and desktops, you can’t block real life. So it seems that the rise of OOH is partly a response to digital fatigue amongst consumers and the advertiser’s quest to reach them in a fresh way that will have the desired effect. However, the rise of this medium is also partly because of the overall shift to digital advertising: many OOH companies are harnessing the power of technology that are increasing impact and relevance.

Innovation

Over the last few years, OOH has had to become rapidly more tech savvy to stave off irrelevance. Innovations abound, largely to make the medium more responsive, interactive and, critically, targeted, so that it can compete with digital advertising in terms of relevance. Location and contextual data are crucial to the success of the OOH format as they can be used for increased targeting. Many companies working in this space are creating technological innovations that have brought OOH right into the 21st century. Clear Channel’s Radar programme uses global positioning data from mobile apps to understand who is passing by its signage, whilst startup AdQuick has developed a range of new targeting and measuring tools, including integrating digital voice assistants so passers-by can ask for more information – and therefore provide more data for advertisers to use. Google is, of course, putting its targeting and programmatic expertise to good use in the space, grabbing extensive demographic data from Android owners passing by, and even started to test its DoubleClick ad technology in London, allowing advertisers to purchase ad space on screens across the city programmatically. This opens up the opportunity to respond in real-time to events such as beer ads for the Friday commute home.

Of course, geo-targeting is a key feature in today’s digital OOH. It allows fixed screens to surface information that people want or need in that place, at that time, therefore adding value to the consumer’s day, while OOH in situations like taxis can respond to changing points of interest as the vehicle passes. All this leads to dynamic, interesting and valuable content.

Even more futuristically, artificial intelligence (AI) is helping marketers to personalise OOH content and make it more engaging. One such innovation is technology that detects the facial features and expressions of a passer-by and determine whether they are happy, surprised, sad or angry as well as their gender and approximate age, all with remarkable accuracy. This of course allows advertisers to deliver in real time the ad which will resonate best with the consumer.

It used to be that OOH’s key purpose was to drive traffic to bricks-and-mortar shops, but with so much innovation going on in the space, the medium can now drive a specific action and interact in a personalised and targeted way – and that makes it so much more effective than it used to be.

Effectiveness

Technological advances and, conversely, digital fatigue amongst consumers has brought about a renaissance for OOH and have made it a highly effective medium. Being able to understand the geographic and demographic context of a billboard’s surroundings – and change content accordingly in real time make it a valuable weapon in the advertiser’s arsenal. Furthermore, rather than replacing other media, it works well in conjunction with other channels and can even amplify them. Mobile click-through rates increase 15% when supported by OOH ads, according to WARC, and 46% of US consumers have used a search engine after seeing an OOH ad. It even intersects with social media: research by Nielsen revealed that one in four American adults has posted a photo of an outdoor ad on Instagram – that’s much higher than TV, radio, print or digital banners. Xannonce When Spotfiy turned a New York subway into an art installation, it reached 50 million people on social channels, with no paid amplification.

All this means that the ROI for OOH in the US is remarkably high: each dollar spent on OOH advertising drives an average $5.97 in sales – that’s 40% higher than digital search.

An innovative ‘push’ medium

Gone are the days when a billboard was a passive brand-building format. It’s now a dynamic, innovative medium that has the ability to engage with, entertain and add value to consumers, pushing them towards a purchase in a way that can seem less intrusive than a mobile ad. In an age where consumers are being targeted by advertising from all angles, an effective, innovative and impactful out of home campaign might just be the way to rise above the clutter.

Thumbnail image: Shutterstock

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