Out-Of-Home advertising or OOH advertising excels in powering brand awareness and customer engagement, and its digital transformation makes OOH media even more attractive, say Moving Walls’ Quinn Amalore and Mehul Mandalia.

According to WARC’s annual review of its Global Marketing Index (GMI), 2021 was a strong year of recovery for global marketing budgets led by digital, mobile, TV and Out-of-home or OOH. The last came back into growth following the general lifting of movement restrictions across countries. While OOH media’s bounce back was a matter of when rather than if, it is being accelerated by the fact that the medium is so widespread with physical advertising panels now part of just about every venue type.

One of the key growth levers that continues to expand OOH is the retail adoption of place-based screens. These have proven to be a great tool to boost brand awareness, improve customer experience and promote customer engagement.

The ability to turn location-driven campaigns into audience-driven ones has meant that advertisers are increasingly moving towards using this channel. OOH media owners offer a more engaging experience than other media types, as people often consume digital content alone while they are out and about. But not anymore. With outdoor ads being able to leave an impression on customers across multiple venues, digital screens are increasingly being used as a channel to extend digital video campaigns.

The two waves of OOH’s digital transformation

  • The first wave: Static screens started converting into digital displays. This enabled media owners to offer advertisers a premium digital product. It also allowed media owners to take advantage of the latest technologies. However, media owners still needed to turn screens on for longer hours in order to get higher revenues from advertisers. This meant that advertisers weren’t always assured of reaching their target audience at specific times of the day or using certain locations. It also meant that advertisers had to “share” the space with other brands, unlike static billboards on which one brand would dominate for a fixed period of time.
  • The second wave: Through the rise of data and tech, media owners started "digitising" their screens so they could react according to real-time data and optimise content accordingly. In other words, adopting dynamic content optimisation (DCO), which enables their screens to deliver the right message and creativity at the right time. Moreover, newer and more advanced tech also means that a media owner’s content management system (CMS) is capable of managing and displaying HTML5 content packages. More of that below.

The new “outernet” media

DOOH screens can now be found just about everywhere. The average consumer spends about 3.1 hours outdoors daily, according to Outsmart, and interacts with non-traditional place-based media assets in the physical world. The industry is no longer just large display panels and billboard facades, and DOOH can be found everywhere – on the streets to inside malls, taxis, residences, pharmacies, gyms, elevators, rideshares, food courts and even on mobile trucks. In a recent example amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, unconventional screens turned into advertising options when Smart Hand Sanitiser Stations in Indonesia allowed ads to be streamed on their screens.

Media owners know that OOH is still an advertiser’s dream when it comes to priming audiences or brand-building. Here’s why:

  • It is unskippable. Unlike online, OOH can't easily be skipped or blocked. OOH is part of an urban landscape and is immune to ad-blockers.
  • OOH media is non-intrusive to the audiences. It blends in with outdoor audiences.
  • Due to OOH digitisation, OOH advertisers have the opportunity to reach their audiences with relevant messages. OOH has data ability that can also be used by OOH owners for better targeting. It is no longer an option but a must-have that OOH owners should embrace.
  • OOH is the best primer of everything digital. Media owners must be open to new ideas like digitisation for better return on investment (ROI) from OOH.

Digital transformation makes OOH media more attractive

In comparison to other media categories, the OOH business has been hesitant to implement automation in the past. Today’s digitisation of media assets has accelerated in recent years but the purchasing and selling methods largely remained unchanged.

While we've seen examples of the sector embracing new technologies, such as request for proposal (RFP) automation and prominent billboard businesses announcing private online buying/programmatic systems, the industry remains largely offline. Simplifying the buying and selling processes with automation will allow OOH media owners to tap into more of the 93.5% of advertisers (based on global ad spending by medium) who generally don’t use OOH and the millions of existing large and small businesses already buying internal display and paid searches.

While retail dominated the end-user industry, enhanced OOH capabilities had pushed adoption even higher. OOH has shown to be an effective strategy for increasing brand exposure, enhancing the consumer experience and increasing customer engagement. Here’s how media owners today are optimising their assets to become more attractive to brands:

  • Simplify the buying and selling process with booking platforms. Why do manual work when you can automate it?
  • Equip media assets with audience data, which will improve and provide access to measurement tools and audience profiling capabilities.
  • Offer a seamlessly integrated platform with automation and programmatic.
  • Connectivity matters, and connecting inventories to a wider DOOH marketplace by integrating offline assets to the online world makes inventories easy to find and accessible to online users.
  • Participate in collaborative and open networks.
  • Be willing to broaden new buying functionalities (eg adjusting campaign lengths and day-parting).
  • Adopting location intelligence via IoT-enabled devices
  • Adopting a data-driven CMS technology that can tell how well the campaign is performing.
  • Enabling DCO capabilities.

OOH media owners adopt HTML5 to offer DCO capabilities

HTML5 is the web standard for displaying content. It allows advertisers to target customers based on demographics and geography, as well as tailor creatives to the surroundings. Advertisers who buy programmatically have many more creative alternatives than those who buy offline. HTML5 gives designers the freedom to use powerful visuals that emphasise a few crucial ideas.

  • When should an advertisement be shown?
  • What is the best place to put an advertisement?
  • What ad should I show?
  • Who are we going to show the ad to?
  • What is the size of the ad that is displayed?
  • What is the displayed ad size?

HTML5 should be encouraged since it provides advertising with a plethora of creative choices for capturing consumer attention. In the realm of programmatic DOOH (pDOOH), the winning creative must be provided in real time, rather than being downloaded and produced.

Case studies of OOH media owners using digital tools

Enabling programmatic DOOH across condo screen network

Anjels Media, Singapore's largest residential DOOH screen network provider, enables automated and data-driven advertising across Singapore home screens. It was able to utilise a market-leading end-to-end OOH management suite that includes dynamic content management, audience measurement, inventory management and the ability to conduct programmatic campaigns via specialised and omnichannel DSPs.

Bringing accountability to food court advertising

Kopitiam uses audience data to power physical retail media as tabletops and pillar wrap in Singapore’s food courts. Kopitiam intended to make food court advertising more accountable by driving the implementation of a programmatic and data-driven OOH media channel. It was able to power planning, selling, verification and re-targeting audiences utilising location-based outernet media by measuring physical locations and people's movements.

Reaching audiences in traditionally unreachable places

In order to increase brand awareness and reach people in locations where stagnant facade screens could not go, Bosch tapped into unconventional OOH media through the use of mobile advertisements (Unicom Marketing and Ming Media Promotion). The campaign dispatched trucks and in-taxi screens to industrial locations and was able to offer industrial tools to its narrowly targeted audiences, comprising retail and industrial customers. The campaign has successfully showcased how effective OOH is to achieve its goal despite the restricted number of OOH asset options available. Audience data and tech were combined, delivering awareness beyond its desired objectives.

Shell’s personalised DOOH for selective drivers

The Shell V-Power digital billboard, which was placed on one of Kuala Lumpur’s busiest streets, Jalan Maarof, was configured to identify selected automobiles based on their brand, with the billboard "calling out" the car when it is stationary. Drivers will get a personalised message encouraging them to test Shell V-Power, a premium fuel grade. For example, when a BMW stops close to the billboard, it will illuminate with the phrase "Hey BMW driver, do you want to experience performance and power? Try Shell V-Power right today!” The campaign managed to creatively convey Shell V-Power while engaging drivers in a highly contextual way that piques their interest.

The bottom line

OOH media is one of the oldest mediums of communication. However, it continues to attract only a small percentage of the overall advertising pie in most markets.

But digital transformation is no longer just for the early adopters or larger players in this industry. Online platforms to automate sales processes and connect to automated demand sources have never been more accessible.

Media owners will be able to develop increasingly engaging audience experiences, thanks to the exponential growth of this technology and increased ease of connectivity. On that note, media owners should be ready for a HTML5-first world. In fact, they should use HTML5 content capabilities by default and adapt their technological stack and operational processes accordingly, while enabling audience data to their screens will unlock the value in their media assets. 

Media owner-focused adtech platforms provide audience insights as well as the ability to manage and connect inventory to demand-side platforms, dynamic CMS and ad server for digital OOH that allow more targeted campaign planning and instant delivery to appropriate environments and audiences.

Media owners who continue to adopt emerging technologies for their OOH business are on the right track towards attracting increased media spending and supporting innovative campaign executions.