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When the People Are Out, Digital Out-of-Home Is In

There’s a great big world out there, and Americans are rediscovering all of its wonders. According to a new survey from Out-of-Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA) and The Harris Poll, 45% of Americans report noticing billboards, outdoor video screens, posters and other forms of digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising more now than before the pandemic began. This is even more true for consumers in urban cities with populations of more than 1 million people who reported an increase in awareness of 69%.

With 70% of Americans saying they have a greater appreciation of their surroundings when outdoors, and a majority planning to travel even more than they did in 2019, out-of-home (OOH) advertising is getting renewed interest, especially digital out-of-home. Digital out-of-home includes more dynamic forms of traditional OOH such as digital billboards, smart signs, interactive kiosks and more. The ads themselves can be anything from static images to videos in a variety of formats and can be found anywhere people congregate: highways, malls, stadiums, airports, trains, city streets and so on.

When the pandemic put the world on pause in 2020, OOH advertising took a huge hit. Units were being sold at huge discounts as advertisers shifted their focus to online media channels. Fast forward to the present and OOH is not only surviving, it’s thriving. As people venture out into the great beyond, brands are all too eager to follow, and prices have returned to pre-pandemic levels. This trend, along with more technological investment in the space in past years, has set the stage for a digital out-of-home palooza.

Brighter Than LEDs: The Future of Digital Out-of-Home

Growth and Change in the Market

Digital out-of-home — which is a subset of OOH, not digital advertising — has been growing quickly in previous years. According to eMarketer, in 2015, DOOH's share of total OOH ad spend was just 17%. However, in 2020 (which was historically not a good year for OOH), DOOH accounted for a third of total US OOH ad spending. By 2023, we expect 42% of all US outdoor ad spending to come from DOOH, so it has a bright future ahead of it.

The infrastructure for digital outdoor ads is also growing, with hundreds of new displays going up across the country every year. Per Statista’s estimates — in cooperation with OAAA — the number of digital billboards grew from 6,400 in 2016 to 9,600 in 2020, a 50% increase. Additionally, OAAA reports that in the first half of 2020, there were 5,742 digital street furniture outdoor ad placements, 7,847 digital transit displays, and 5,830 digital shopping mall place-based ad units. Plenty of places to show off your digital creativity!

DOOHing Data Right

Digital out-of-home advertising offers a creative way to inject your brand and message into the outside world. In a time when marketers are having their cookies taken away and losing the ability to access individualistic consumer data, DOOH is a reliable and versatile addition to your media mix.

People tend to follow daily routines faithfully, and DOOH leverages that information to serve relevant contextual advertising. In contrast to one-to-one advertising, DOOH tracks consumer behaviors on a large scale to target ads at entire segments of your audience, determining where, when, and how an ad will have the most impact.

Instead of relying on first-party data, digital out-of-home uses modeling of probabilistic, historical mobile location data to determine who will be in the vicinity of screens, kiosks, and other signage at particular times. This data from the most recent 24-hour period is used to inform bidding, meaning real-world conditions such as commutes and special events are always considered.

The mechanisms that support online advertising will continue to be impacted in the coming years, causing advertisers to rethink their strategies on that front. Meanwhile, DOOH has mastered the art of accurately targeting consumer behaviors and cohorts instead of establishing individual one-to-one connections.

Media Planning & Buying: DOOHs and Don’ts

As you plan your ad campaigns with digital out-of-home in mind, make sure you’re thinking about how to use this channel in tandem with your other efforts. According to research conducted by Ocean Neuroscience, consumers are 48% more likely to interact with a mobile ad after first seeing the same OOH ad. Utilizing a DOOH ad will only further unite your outdoor advertising with your online ads in terms of creative, messaging, and presentation — increasing your overall trustworthiness in the eyes of consumers. In addition, by ensuring your other efforts complement your DOOH ads, you’ll be better able to capitalize on the interest generated from them.

Another aspect to think about is the context in which consumers will see your ads. Digital out-of-home is observed on the go. The time of the day, season, weather and many other factors are essential in triggering the proper emotional response. Therefore, when planning your creative, consider custom ads for various contexts (i.e., day vs. night or sunny vs. rainy), and adapt your messaging for each screen location. The language may be different for your audience driving down the interstate and waiting for their train.

In the past, out-of-home ads were bought and sold according to traditional methods, but it’s a bright new world for DOOH. Programmatic buying and selling of digital out-of-home units is commonplace in today’s market, allowing DOOH campaigns to be easier to deploy and modify. You’ll also benefit from the wealth of data modeling programmatic ecosystems provide. To purchase units, all you need to do is set the conditions under which you want to buy media, and when those conditions are met, the ads will be automatically purchased. The advantage of digital out-of-home compared to traditional OOH ads is that you’ll have different screens and time slots available.

This is What We DOOH

The strength of any out-of-home placement — digital or otherwise — relies on location, and for this reason, there can be an inventory shortage. As media buyers, The Ward Group is responsible for finding the most ideal locations possible. When looking for the best available options for your creative message, we consider many things, going to great lengths to understand how the consumer will see and interact with your ad. We even go out into the market and assess the space and give our recommendations on the creative execution for your ad.

Through market research, our media stewards will determine consumer behavior and evaluate the interests of your target audience. Then, we’ll find the best spaces to expose consumers to your brand, whether in gyms, shopping centers, transit stations, or on city streets. With modern geofencing technology, we can take the engagement a step further, continuing to nurture those nearby through digital marketing.

When the people get back out into the world, make sure you welcome them with open arms. Contact The Ward Group to start planning your digital out-of-home campaign today.

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