Beyond the Billboard: The Evolution of Outdoor Advertising

What looks like a giant postcard and reaches audiences in the thousands—even millions, depending on its geographic location? The traditional roadside billboard, of course. And while it can be difficult to measure exactly how many people actually see a billboard ad, digital technologies are making it easier for interested viewers to take action on an advertised offer—and that’s music to the direct response marketer’s ears.

From Outdoor to OOH
Take note: what we used to refer to as simply “outdoor” advertising is now called out of home (OOH) advertising, and encompass far more than the outdoor billboards lining the sides of buildings and expressways. While billboards may be the most noticed ads—and they’re most certainly located outside—consumers also see advertising messages on any number of poster or digital displays in airports and bus shelters, and on the inside of public venues such as shopping malls, stadiums, health clubs, and movie theaters.

With OOH advertising, whether we’re talking about a giant highway billboard or an urban park bench, you can get really close to your audience, geographically speaking. Ads can be placed near your place of business or wherever your target audience is likely to be. And with digital media—and the digital technology in consumers’ hands—brand engagement can mean more than awareness and foot traffic. Let’s take a closer look.

From Raising Brand Awareness to “Driving” Conversions
When we think of the traditional outdoor ad—the iconic Dr. Pepper’s “A taste that’s One of a Kind” billboard, for example—we may think of building national brand awareness. On a local scale, there are countless ads for legal services and local healthcare facilities along highways and byways, as well as ads promoting local tourism. These ads help keep local businesses and their offerings top-of-mind.

Other ads are informational and highly timely. It makes sense that many outdoor ads let interstate drivers know that a gas station, motel, favorite burger joint, or even a local tourist attraction is a mile or so ahead. Advertisers hope that these ads will trigger a pain point (even just a hunger pang) and encourage a visit—a break for the weary traveler.

These ads are highly effective—otherwise they wouldn’t remain so popular among advertisers. Consider these highlights from Nielsen’s 2016 OOH Advertising Study:

• 91% (of the US residents age 16 or older surveyed) noticed some form of out-of-home advertising in the past month
• 80% noticed a billboard in the past month
• 59% noticed a digital billboard in the past month
• 82% of billboard viewers make a point to look at the advertising message at least some of the time

Great. But many OOH ads deliver more than branding power and off-road foot traffic. Of particular interest to direct response marketers, the Nielsen study also shows how some OOH viewers took other actions as the result of seeing an ad:

• 35% used online search on their smartphone to look up information about the advertiser
• 23% swiped an NFC sensor or scanned a QR code using their smartphone
• 22% accessed a coupon or discount code on their smartphone
• 22% visited an advertisers website on their smartphone
• 16% (of the 39% who noticed an ad providing directions to a location) visited the advertised business
• 14% snapped a photo of an ad using their smartphone

These measurable success metrics shed light on the Outdoor Advertising Association of America’s report that OOH is the most efficient ad medium at driving online activity. Furthermore, the ROI for OOH is $5.97 per ad dollar spent.

Digital Marketing: What’s Next for OOH
Brands are getting the message that outdoor advertising—or any form of out of home advertising, which targets people when they’re out driving or anywhere in public—is powerful, especially when part of a digital marketing strategy. Here are three important points to consider:

• Both OOH and mobile advertising target customers while they’re on the move. It stands to reason they work well together: An OOH can easily provide a mobile-based call-to-action to encourage viewers to access a coupon, download an app, find directions to the nearest brick-and-mortar store location, visit their website, share on social, etc.

• Thanks to digital signage, advertisers have the option to show dynamic ads that can change by the time of day or the amount of traffic around the billboard. And since messages are not static—they’re not printed, that is—wording in the ads and offers can also be tweaked (and tested) with more ease and at less expense to the advertiser.

• Digital marketing media are capable of collecting vast amounts of data that advertisers can use to optimize their ad spend. When billboard and other forms of OOH advertising is integrated into a multi-channel (and mobile) campaign, there’s more information available for advertisers to work with, and glean from, as they improve the performance of their ads.

Don’t miss Tap, Swipe, Search: Direct Response Marketing in the Mobile Channel.

Contact us to learn more.