Knowing where an audience is and understanding its behaviour is key to planning a digital out-of-home campaign, writes Alex Wright, head of insights at Blis.

Traditionally, location data companies’ most common association with the OOH industry was as an amplification partner – either targeting devices in proximity to OOH sites, or storing those device IDs to expand on, or extend, the OOH message elsewhere through another media touchpoint.

However, the technology and data that enable us to activate advertising on mobile is now being increasingly used to plan location-based audience targeting activity for other media – specifically OOH – as well as to provide a physical measure of effectiveness, thanks to the same exposure-to-conversion methodology employed in our own mobile advertising.

While the medium may change, the fundamental desires and data-points are consistent:

  • Analytics: Plan your activity to reach your target audience as efficiently as possible
  • Activation: Execute on this plan
  • Attribution: Measure impact according to set objectives

Mobile location data enables us to enhance the granularity of pre-campaign audience identification. It’s no longer the case that an advertiser needs to rely on an over-index against a broad audience, when now it’s possible to identify behaviour at brand level.

The industry-wide investment in updating and up-speccing digital OOH sites means that inventory is increasingly able to facilitate this level of targeting – by site, by time of day or day of week – and with bespoke messages catering to the nuance of audience and objective.

With more than 11,000 sites across the UK in 2019, a 51% increase year-on-year, opportunities abound for brands looking to get in front of the 68% of Britons that see a digital screen at least once a week. This increase in deployment of digital technology in the OOH space will continue to fuel the predicted 8% growth between 2018 and 2023.

How can location data help?

Before any creative gets placed, knowing where the audience is and understanding its behaviour is key.

The ‘urban clustering’ of digital screens means 37% of all DOOH impacts are seen by 15- to 34-year-olds and 63% by ABC1s, according to a recent Route survey. Using location data, brands can then map their most suitable audiences and layer them against DOOH locations to identify the most impactful site for targeted ads to appeal to the predominant audience present at the time. Prioritising a “roadmap” such as this can help determine which sites to buy, and the best time to run ads to optimise for the best results.

There are lots of approaches being explored by taking an omnichannel outlook to target consumers following exposure and interaction with a DOOH ad. By infusing dynamic creative optimisation into ad campaigns, it allows brands to make use of weather, traffic and time of day, for example, customising the ad to improve relevance. And, of course, location data makes it possible to attribute foot traffic to store or online purchases following exposure, with outcome-focused measurement.

Taking an example of a global sports brand running a campaign in the UK, with a focus on runners as the key audience, we utilised over 2,000 DOOH locations across the country. Using mobile location data we served targeted ads to carefully selected audiences, with some interesting results, including a relatively strong conversion rate of 1-2%.

Most tellingly, the top 100 DOOH locations according to volume of conversions was considerably different from the top 100 locations according to efficiency. Understanding this type of insight can inform strategy and optimise spend to higher performing locations in real-time.

The final missing piece for OOH in its pursuit of digitisation has been the robust attribution of its impact. OOH is notoriously difficult to measure. Part of the challenge is that it is a channel designed to achieve high reach, fast, so to tailor a campaign for measurement – i.e. to create an artificial control cell – would be to neuter a key strength.

The other challenge is that people move. The media and the measurement are necessarily separate, but must be considered as parallel, and the ubiquity of smartphones enables an association to be made between a moving person and a stationary advert.

Currently we build audience profiles by identifying key unifying factors such as health and fitness as a lifestyle indicator. But the potential to use location data to drive customer conquesting is wide open. Further development of these audiences, refining at a consumer level, could include only those that shop with a brand’s main competitor to receive specifically targeted ads. In addition, we’re starting to see commonalities in the results, with sites closer to stores more likely to drive foot traffic and higher performing pedestrian sites.

It’s early days in this field, but already location data is helping both the OOH industry and long-established spenders in the category explore their new capabilities and quantify the effectiveness of this, the oldest advertising channel.