Digital OOH’s growth has media agencies make more use of its data and measurement options

Boring static billboards are coming closer to extinction as digital out of home media adds more tools to its offerings.

Media agencies are increasing their use of digital out of home channels in new ways as different data engagement and emerging technologies become a part of their arsenal, making the space increasingly attractive to maturing and legacy brands alike to think beyond traditional billboards.

With experimentation in digital and immersive displays to live feeds, agencies and clients are able to integrate live consumer data, heat mapping or location tracking and measurement in order to focus on other elements of performance – rather than just using OOH for brand awareness.

“You see brands using everything from augmented reality in their ads to [building] out a more interesting creative story,” said Brian Rappaport, CEO and founder of Quan Media Group. “It’s no more billboards, just wild postings. … There’s so many different ways you could reach a consumer and so many different touch points and that it’s exciting.”

The investments have also steadily increased – with OOH ad revenue growing 2.1% in 2023 from the previous year and totaling $8.7 billion, per The Out of Home Advertising Association of America. In particular, digital OOH (DOOH) accounted for 33% of total OOH spend and grew almost 10% that year, and 65% of the top 100 OOH advertisers increased their spend from 2022.

Personalized OOH strategies

Increasingly, the digital OOH category is expanding deeper into marketing – as mobile and smart devices make it possible to reach people with artificial intelligence integrations, augmented reality or interactive content at any physical space.

“All you need is just a trigger or a QR code, something very simple – and then [content] pops up directly through your camera,” said Yann Caloghiris, executive director at Stagwell’s creative tech firm Left Field Labs. “So potentially anywhere can become out of home in this brave new world of [extended reality], right?”

With the growing AI and data applications, agencies can also use DOOH as an initial trigger to then strategize how and when to continue communicating with consumers. For instance, Left Field Lab and a drug company’s campaign for a men’s medication used OOH as a starting point – but based on where people were afterward (be it out in public or at home) – they could tailor the content and be sensitive to where they were to continue engaging.

“As you completed the survey, we would move you further down a funnel that would qualify you for that drug … then use AI to make a prediction about how we should continue the conversation between the brand and the potential customer,” Caloghiris said. “So suddenly, what started off as an OOH trigger became a highly data-driven, predictive and digital experience that they would follow through on their mobiles.”

Rappaport, who founded Quan after departing IPG’s OOH media agency Rapport, said “a little bit of everything” is driving more interest in DOOH for the industry – from retail networks’ popularity to more programmatic options for this channel. Quan’s clients include many DTC players from Skims to Liquid IV, and the agency has been honing its data and measurement tools for OOH campaigns. Coming from the holding company environment, Rappaport said measurement wasn’t tied to OOH campaigns until recently.

That’s why he started Quan with the goal of employing a variety of research and analytics tools, audience mapping, movement tracking and metrics in order to look at where to best place content when a client brief comes in. Quan uses other measurements, like brand lift studies, in order to make adjustments in the process. With growing resources, agencies can create DOOH content that is much more personalized – and target a specific venue or even commuting pattern to attract a specific type of audience, for instance.

“I can understand what specific billboard or large digital [display will] index high against the male demographic that are 25 to 34, that maybe are single, employed and own one car – and that could help me, based on a brief that I’m getting from a client,” Rappaport explained.

Future of OOH

The space is also becoming particularly attractive for growing DTC brands, which also make up a lot of Quan’s roster — it doesn’t hurt that OOH is often easy on budgets — but also appealing to legacy brands that are looking to break into a new market. Rappaport mentioned some clients increased their OOH investments and scale of ad placements in the last year, but did not specify those amounts.

OOH may be around 10% or less of budgets, but it could “still be a lot of money [for bigger brands],” explained Tucker Matheson, cofounder of marketing agency Markacy. “We really see out of home as really geographic penetration and to hype key moments for brands.”

The channel can be a good amplification tool especially when used in conjunction with other methods like direct mail, consumer financial data and social media. For example, one of Markacy’s golfing brands with existing stores in Los Angeles is expanding to Scottsdale, Ariz. When it launches, the brand will utilize direct mail using credit card purchase data, as well as targeted Meta advertising for the store, likely within a 10-20 mile radius.

Caloghiris agreed that OOH is no longer thought of in isolation – and is a growing part of larger digital and data-driven campaigns, even though budgets may not always reflect that. Be it through smart glasses or AI, the possibilities to using OOH are opening up in advertising.

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