- Google is reportedly in talks to install public billboards in stations, shopping centers and store windows in Germany that display targeted ads based on users' web browsing, Bloomberg said, citing a report from the German news publisher WirtschaftsWoche. The news could herald similar offerings in the U.S. and U.K., per WirtschaftsWoche.
- For the past few years, Google has been testing programmatic ad technology, typically used for web ads, for billboards. Google's access to large amounts of search and mobile location data gives it the capability to target digital billboards in ways that competitors like Facebook can't.
- The targeted billboard ads could be used to market to large groups of people, like displaying BMW ads for commuters on a Monday morning, per one example used in the report. Another one suggested a train of fans of the soccer team Borussia Dortmund could be targeted with ads for beer or soccer equipment as they arrive for a game.
Google potentially targeting out-of-home (OOH) ads using information it has on consumers from the web comes as the technology company, which acts as the largest digital advertising platform in the world, faces increasing scrutiny over how it handles users' data privacy. Laws like the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, which went into effect in late May, require users to consent to being served targeted ads, which means Google would have to limit the billboards to groups in European markets as opposed to individuals, according to Bloomberg.
The Alphabet-owned search giant has faced tougher regulations in Europe than it has in the U.S., but that hasn't appeared to cool any of its marketing ambitions. Earlier this summer, the company was slapped with a roughly $5 billion antitrust fine by European antitrust regulations; it was fined $2.72 billion by the EU in June of last year as well.
Still, Google clearly recognizes the burgeoning digital out-of-home advertising market, which more big brands are glomming onto. Delta Airlines and Equinox Fitness launched a campaign in July that leveraged travelers' real-time flight data to encourage gym visits. Passengers on certain flights received a free one-day gym voucher, and the billboard content changed after flights landed and as passengers left the airport.
OOH advertising revenue overall rose 2% in Q1 2018 compared to the same period last year and accounted for $1.68 billion, according to data from the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA).
"An important part of OOH's growth has been advertisers in the tech and digital sectors because of its ability to efficiently reach massive audiences," OAAA President and CEO Nancy Fletcher said in a statement around the findings.