In an increasingly digital world, it’s easy to forget about real life. But the surprisingly strong two-year growth of the out-of-home – or outdoor – advertising industry proves that offline advertising still matters. The first quarter of 2017 marked the seventh straight year of growth for the industry, and revenues grew 0.3 percent over the previous year of $1.64 billion, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA).
Outdoor advertising’s growth story is one of successful adaptation, as advertisers increasingly embrace digital media. Intuitive, digitally enabled outdoor activations that appear on billboards, bus stops, subway stations, and buildings have reconfigured the outdoor advertising category as a space where physical presence augments and amplifies broader campaigns. Here are three trends to watch.
Mobile Meets Outdoor Advertising
Mobile technology, GPS tracking, and Big Data: digital outdoor is using them all to deliver the right marketing messages to relevant consumers. These tools enable marketers to personalize messages based on consumers’ locations and even nudge them into immediate action – think of a push message for a sale that drives foot traffic to a nearby brick-and-mortar store. The key is to find the consumer, in real life, with advertising content relevant to them.
New York City’s LinkNYC kiosks, which provide New Yorkers with free Wi-Fi, phone calls, and a place to charge their phones, give brands the digital real estate to execute mobile-focused out-of-home advertising. Coors Light, for example, took advantage of the opportunity by partnering with the music-discovery app Shazam. The beverage company ran ads on the kiosks, directing passersby to open the app on their phone and access a curated playlist of the most-searched songs in that specific neighborhood. The list updated itself every 15 minutes. Mobile ads within the Shazam app then pointed users to nearest place they could buy a Coors Light.
According to Josh Wexelbaum, senior manager of local marketing for MillerCoors, consumers are beginning to expect real-time utility from brands, and the marriage between traditional outdoor advertising and a connected media player like Shazam was a natural fit.
More Data, Better Data
The most successful targeted outdoor advertising campaigns use digital and mobile tools to measure their effectiveness. In order to match their online counterparts, outdoor media providers are deploying sophisticated audience measurement techniques to help brands target their ads more efficiently.
Out-of-home advertising giant Clear Channel Outdoor works with various partners to gather data and insights about the customers who pass their billboards every day. For instance, AT&T’s new outdoor advertising metrics unit, AT&T Data Patterns, uses the network’s subscriber information to provide advertisers with data such as age and income ranges, ethnicity, and gender. The technology will also be able to provide metrics on how many people see an ad for a specific brand – say, a restaurant or clothing chain – and then go to its nearest location. With more than 60 percent of urban consumers using their phones after seeing a digital billboard advertisement, mobile data that connects people’s online habits to their offline actions is becoming increasingly valuable to marketers.
Intuitive, Responsive, Creative
From scent-activated advertisements to digital billboards made entirely from GIFs, the parameters for brands to build memorable experiences and drive impressive results are only expanding with digitally enabled outdoor advertising. In an ad focused on capturing commuters’ imagination and senses, McCain launched a £1.4m campaign in the U.K., outfitting 10 bus stop shelters with 3D fiberglass Ready Baked Jacket potatoes, which emanated heat and the aroma of spuds cooking. The digital bus stop ad didn’t just make people hungry; it also dispensed useful money-off coupons.
Another outdoor campaign from Netflix and Ogilvy Paris featured more than 100 GIFs from beloved TV shows and movies in a single billboard, which responds to current events and the general environment. For example, when it was raining, the digital outdoor ad displayed a rainy scene from a movie.
With the growing sophistication of digital technologies – especially mobile and location-based apps – the outdoor ad space has become an even richer creative space for brands to engage with people in real time. These campaigns often range from large cross-media programs to locally focused efforts – for both, digital outdoor advertising has enormous potential to create impact closer to the point of purchase.
It’s a lot like putting candy in the checkout line: the sheer convenience and abundance of digitally-enabled outdoor advertisements allow them to push the consumer toward a certain real-life action – whether it’s walking into a nearby AT&T store or buying a Coors Light. Outdoor ads are now a lot more than static pictures and text blown up larger than life over a highway – they’re interactive and interpretive. Like everything else these days, outdoor ads are getting smart.