Innovations developed by online advertisers are working for billboards
The blend of history and modernity is emblematic of the out-of-home (OOH) business itself which, despite being one of the world’s oldest forms of marketing, is embracing digital technologies.
Most forms of conventional advertising – print, radio and TV – have been losing ground to online ads for years; only billboards, dating back to the 1800s!, and TV ads are holding their own. OOH advertising is expected to grow by 3.4% in 2018, and digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising, which includes the LCD screens found in shopping malls, by 16%. Such ads draw viewers’ attention from phones and cannot be skipped or blocked, unlike ads online.
Billboard owners are also benefiting from the location data from people’s smartphones. Information about their owners’ whereabouts and online browsing gets aggregated (and, importantly, made anonymous) which is analyzed to work out when different demographic groups – e.g. business travelers – walk by their ads. That knowledge is added to insights into traffic, weather and other external data to produce highly relevant ads. DOOH providers can deliver ads for coffee when it is cold, and fizzy drinks when it is warm. Billboards can be programmed to show ads for sun cream when the sun shines.
Such targeting works particularly well when it is accompanied by “programmatic” advertising methods, i.e. the use of data to automate and improve ad placement. Programmatic platforms have been developed which allow brands and media buyers to select, purchase and place ads in minutes, rather than days or weeks. Industry boosters say outdoor ads will increasingly be bought like online ones, based on audience and views as well as location.
Interestingly, tech giants are among those to see the value in OOH advertising; Apple and Google are heavy buyers of OOH ads, accounting for 25 of the top 100 OOH spenders in the USA.