Billups rethinks analytics offering to win over OOH ad dollars for performance campaigns

We all know that digital has largely taken over most media, but there are pockets of analog that still deliver some value to advertisers. One of the last bastions is outdoor advertising — and Billups, an OOH media agency, caters to that.

But Billups, which just hit 20 years in operation, also realizes that traditional media needs to keep up with modern forms of measurement, analysis and data gathering — counting cars passing a billboard just won’t cut it anymore.

To that end, Digiday has learned the Portland, Ore., based shop (which also has offices across the U.S. and around the globe) has launched a new analytics platform designed to distill OOH campaign performance tracking and measurement using machine learning tech. The platform captures both traditional and digital campaign performance, with the ultimate goal to get OOH considered as an option for lower-funnel performance campaigns, not just branding. The agency is talking with several clients, including DTC marketers, but declined to identify which are currently using the new tool, which is being applied to all Billups’ locations.

“We’ve done a lot of work and spent a lot of time and effort and money around building out a data science practice, really to get at what are the outcomes that are generated down to a board by board level,” said David Krupp, recently promoted to global CEO of Billups. “How is it impacting our clients’ business such that we can report on it, optimize for it, and ideally, convince them that this medium is more than just a broad based awareness play? That’s still a very good thing in a fragmented environment, but really, it can be a transactional media.”

Krupp and co. hired Stephanie Gutnik as global chief strategy officer in September to help assemble the new unit. Gutnik most recently hails from Yahoo, where she was head of OOH for two and a half years across the DSP and the SSP side of Yahoo’s platform, but she also has programmatic experience at Outfront, another major OOH firm. 

Immediately after hiring Gutnik, Billups also acquired two companies key to the development of the new analytics platform: Canadian OOH data science firm OOH Labs and Malaysian OOH agency TAC Media (the latter which also helped expand the company’s presence in APAC). In total, Krupp said the investment has run into the seven figures, but he declined to be more specific.

“There’s still that misperception that out of home is just brand and can kind of be disregarded on the performance marketing element, and that’s what Billups is trying to solve for,” said Gutnik. “People are starting to sing the tune of we need to address both together. But then I still see discussions about how out of home has been excluded from a campaign because it’s a performance marketing campaign. We want to demonstrate that out of home is as measurable from upper to lower funnel.”

Gutnik and the data science team assembled are looking to deliver a much more granular assessment of a billboard’s impact on those who see it, she explained. The patented tech helps to answer questions of visibility and obstruction, as well as creative elements that draw the eye of the passerby — something akin to attention metrics, which are all the rage in other media, especially TV. 

“This is information that we’re not getting from the publishers — we’re giving this to the industry, both on the media owner and the advertiser side,” she said. “We can actually inform the best types of faces to be buying based on where the audiences are coming from, what’s going to work best at different times of day — it’s so nimble.”

Acting as a managed services partner for other agencies, Billups does this for media agency Fitzco, for example — handling OOH buying for Fitzco’s clients. “Billups’ targeting capabilities are second to none when it comes to measuring and reporting on the effectiveness of OOH campaigns,” said Jacob Rayburn, associate director of media at Atlanta-based Fitzco. “We feel confident our OOH spend with Billups is not only reaching but resonating with our target audience.”

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