The static billboards of the past are increasingly being replaced by dynamic digital signs that update in real time and are activated by mobile devices or connected cars, pointing to how the integration of digital technology with out-of-home (OOH) advertising unlocks interesting opportunities for marketers.
Delta Airlines and Equinox Fitness showcased how digital is changing billboard advertising with a campaign this summer that used real-time flight data to encourage international travelers arriving at Los Angeles International Airport to "sweat away" their jet lag. Dynamic opportunities like this are helping drive channel growth, as OOH ad spend rose 1.2% last year compared to 2016, accounting for $7.7 billion, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA). By 2021, a MAGNA Intelligence study predicts OOH spend will reach $33 billion.
Other changes are also evident as OOH advertising evolves. Trade organization Traffic Audit Bureau for Media Measurement, which has audited the circulation of OOH media in the U.S. since 1933, changed its name to Geopath in 2016 and is now embracing data, technology and media research to measure and analyze how consumers engage with OOH ads. In an interview with Marketing Dive, Geopath CEO Kym Frank discussed some of the changes taking place in the space and highlighted key trends impacting marketers.
Dynamic creative and custom triggers
While printed signs still dominate, digital OOH inventory is taking new shape and presenting advertisers with the potential to deliver more dynamic creative and custom triggers. Jukeboxes in bars, large format digital signs lining highways, digital bus shelters and signage in malls and restaurants across America are spurring marketers to experiment with the channel. In the past, such deployments were often considered experimental or a one-off test, but nowadays dynamic creative in OOH is becoming more scalable, Frank said.
For instance, advertisers can now change the creative based on the speed of traffic going past a digital billboard. If traffic is flowing at 60 miles an hour, drivers may only have time to read 10 words or so on a billboard. But if traffic is congested or at a standstill, drivers may be able to read up to 150 words. Messaging and creative can be instantly adjusted to match these conditions and better capture consumers' attention.
"Digital is allowing advertisers to be more reactive and serve dynamic creative often based on custom triggers," Frank said.
Integration of mobile into OOH
Advertisers can also dynamically trigger ads based on the types of mobile devices near the OOH channel, meaning an iPhone owner might see a different ad than an Android user. Advertisers are also geofencing their digital billboards so after drivers who have seen the ad leave the area, they can be retargeted with a personalized ad on their mobile device. For example, if searches for flu medication are peaking in the area, a billboard ad for a pharmacy might adjust the creative to promote certain products at the pharmacy and then the retailer can send passersby an offer.
"Advertisers are getting very creative in how to use the medium, now we are seeing weather triggers, search query triggers, and even messaging based on what is currently playing on a radio station served to a billboard as you drive by," Frank said.
Data improves measurement
The OOH industry has made big investments in measurement systems to glean the kinds of metrics typically associated with digital channels, according to Frank. As a result, brands now have the ability to look at who has been exposed to an ad campaign on a digital billboard and track the behavior of the consumer afterward. While in the past marketers would have had to survey people and ask if they recalled seeing a billboard, now marketers know what consumers passed OOH ads and whether the marketing message contributed to an online search or purchase.
"This is a massive technology data ecosystem that we didn't have access to 10 years ago and suddenly we have so many new toys to play with as an industry."
Using data from connected cars, marketers can also perform more granular segmentation and targeting of audiences.
"So rather than just looking at standard demographics, we can now look at people in the market for a new car or people who are planning to go to a college or university within the next year," Frank said.
The rise of automation
Automation and programmatic trading have reached the OOH industry. The buying and selling of OOH ad space was once a cumbersome process that involved negotiating pricing between the advertiser or the agency and the media seller and sending the creative off to a printer. Someone would then have to go out, take a photo of the unit and send that to the advertiser. These days, the process has become far more automated and efficient.
Some programmatic platforms allow advertisers to buy both mobile ads and OOH units directly through the same interface, enabling more integrated location-based strategies. With automated platforms, it's also easier for advertisers to upload files and for installers to snap digital photos during installation to deliver proof of deployment to the advertiser and agency in real time.
Digital OOH units can also be tracked throughout the day, similar to any other digital ad, delivering analytics results much faster than traditional methods allowed.
"This applies to anything from roadside billboards to jukeboxes in a bar," Frank said. "It spans the gamut of sizing."
Smart cities stimulate growth
Cities are becoming more connected than ever before, offering interactive digital kiosks with maps, free Wi-Fi and local destinations. These city-run services are a great opportunity for advertisers to connect with audiences. New York's LinkNYC and other projects in the works in New Rochelle, New York, and Austin, Texas, highlight that it's not necessarily just OOH companies putting ad inventory into the marketplace.
"Eventually these city projects become ad-supported and become part of the out-of-home ecosystem, and we expect that to become more and more prevalent," Frank said. "Who is running them will be interesting to see. Sometimes it is out-of-home companies, sometimes it is digital companies and sometimes, it is the cities themselves. This is a massive technology data ecosystem that we didn't have access to 10 years ago and suddenly we have so many new toys to play with as an industry."