It is a great time to be a marketing professional. After two decades of media fragmentation, audiences have unprecedented power to curate the content they consume. As a result, marketers can now target consumers at incredible levels of granularity.
Marketers used to explain the media mix as a combination of shotgun tactics (mass media) and sniper rifle tactics (such as direct mail). Big data and digital advertising have upgraded that sniper rifle into a laser beam, and programmatic tools have created a metaphorical marketing Terminator by strapping that laser beam to the arm of a robot.
But forget the Terminator for now. We’ll be back to it in a moment. Let’s talk about the shotgun.
Rather than evolving into a sci-fi mega weapon, the mass media shotgun has rusted to the point that people wonder whether it can even fire anymore. Television viewers have thousands of channels. Commuters can choose between terrestrial radio, satellite radio, Spotify, Pandora, and the near-infinite expanse of music and podcasts on iTunes. We see claims that print publications are still around, but like with Bigfoot, the evidence of their existence always seems to come from people who look a bit too desperate. That leaves only out-of-home (OOH) media: billboards, wallscapes, taxicabs, bus stations, and trucks designed to look like giant hot dogs. It’s a diverse mix.
The chief strategist of Publicis Groupe, Rishad Tobaccowala, recently told attendees at the DPAA Video Everywhere Summit that network outdoor advertising is the last remaining mass medium.
Network outdoor advertising is taking the OOH industry by storm as more legacy inventory is replaced with digital screens, and those screens are increasingly connected to the Internet. They serve ads in real time, generate millions of impressions per day, and they cut across demographics to overcome the challenges of fragmentation.
Digital advertising was revolutionary because it let marketers target anyone. Now, outdoor ads are leading a revolution in targeting everyone. And it couldn’t come at a better time because the digital marketing Terminator has been grappling with some serious bugs.
In July 2013, comScore reported that as much as 54% of digital ads were not viewable. Add that to the increasing evidence of bots being used to drive up impression numbers and the proliferation of consumer ad blocking technology. All of a sudden, digital marketing is looking less like the cool Arnold Schwarzenegger kind of Terminator and more like the scary murderbot from Terminator 2.
That is not to say that OOH ads are perfect, but the last five years have brought sweeping changes, specifically designed to meet the expectations of modern, digitally-savvy CMOs. The Traffic Audit Bureau (TAB), the industry trade group formed to create reliable metrics for OOH reach and frequency, is leveraging big data to continually refine ratings accuracy for the medium. At their convention in April, TAB agencies and vendors will get a first look at Project MORE, the next generation of ratings, which includes scores of environmental factors that impact the likelihood that an ad will be seen.
Technology companies are leveraging TAB data, along with third-party data sources, such as the Census and mobile phones, to dramatically improve the accuracy with which OOH ads can be targeted, tracked, and analyzed. At the same time, demand-side platforms are making billboards as easy to buy as Facebook ads, and supply-side-platforms are aggregating the pricing and availability of information necessary to bring programmatic buying to the OOH space. Today, a media buyer equipped with the right technology is just a few clicks away from covering an entire city with ads—proving that rusty old shotgun has gone nuclear.
Outdoor ads are the root of the entire advertising industry, going back to town criers and hand-drawn posters. Their promise is nothing new, but new technology has breathed life into the industry. OOH ad spending has grown for 22 consecutive quarters, according to the latest numbers from the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA), and the medium’s high-tech renaissance is just beginning. The future of out-of-home advertising is bright. It’s written in 40-foot-wide LED screens, and everyone will be watching.