The Great Out-of-Doors in Advertising
With the holiday season here, New York City is a favorite place to visit. If you plan on taking a trip to this metropolis between now and the end of the year, stop at Times Square and try an experiment: Disconnect from your mobile device for five minutes and look around (meaning take a real good look around) at a form of marketing that many take for granted or may not think about anymore – outdoor advertising.
Long before smartphones, tablets, and even television, outdoor advertising was the means by which brands reached a mass audience – and it is still with us. Everywhere from Times Square to Penn Station and beyond, on everything from billboards to buses, bus shelters and subway stations and more – outdoor advertising is alive. Almost as a way to symbolize the durability of this medium, the Outdoor Advertising Association of America launched a campaign proclaiming “This Ad is Real,” earlier this year at Advertising Week 2015.
But the obvious question that many would ask is how profitable is outdoor advertising? In a recent article for The Wall Street Journal, “Outdoor Advertising Companies Post Improved Revenue in Third Quarter,” Nathalie Tadena states that outdoor advertising “represents a small sliver of marketers’ ad budgets.” Figures from Kantar Media report that “the U.S. spent just $4.4 billion on outdoor ads last year, compared with $78 billion for TV.”
At the same time, one company, OUTFRONT Media, reported recent organic growth and also believes that there this will continue into the fourth quarter. (It should also be noted that in terms of revenue, OUTFRONT Media is the third largest outdoor media owner.)
Part of the downside to advertising on a billboard is that once an ad is there – it is there for the duration of the time agreed upon between client and marketer. Many would consider this form of advertising obsolete in the forever changing digital age. But then, it could also work the other way around… Miss Tadena goes on to state: “Advertisers are increasingly looking to apply the data available from digital and mobile platforms to better target audiences with their outdoor media buys and improve the ability to measure their return on investment.”
Could Miss Tadena’s comment translate into a concept that no one would have thought of? Is it possible that digital and mobile strategies of certain brands may wind up looking to outdoor advertising as a supplement to spreading their visibility (and profitability)? And, not to sound flip, there is no ad blocking for outdoor advertising (aside from turning away from them).
As stated earlier, the drawback to outdoor advertising is that it cannot be changed once it has been placed – so far. There is an experiment underway at this time in London. A well-known technology company is using billboards to test one of its ad technologies. If this experiment proves successful and catches on here in the U.S., outdoor advertising may be on the brink of a whole new era.
As a way to spread the word about its DoubleClick ad technology even further, Google has added billboards as a supplemental marketing tool, right alongside its digital strategy. Lara O’Reilly, writing for Business Insider, explains: “The company is trialing a method for premium billboard ads to (be) bought programmatically – using DoubleClick's automated processes, rather than having to manually place an order with an outdoor advertising company upfront – for the first time.”
This is how the ad strategy works: Advertisers who choose to purchase billboard ads via Google’s DoubleClick technology will have access to real-time data signals (audience, weather, events, etc.) which will help determine everything – from time of day to the location – for the placement of a specific billboard ad. DoubleClick technology would then keep, discard, or reassign the ad, based on how relevant it would be to the majority of people who pass by it and take notice (or don’t).
Tim Collier, who is the mobile solutions lead for Google’s DoubleClick, maintains that this is simply a test, but one which will help the participating advertisers learn what works and what doesn’t – the same type of trial and error that digital campaigns face. As stated, this trial-and-error experiment is still ongoing, and results have not been finalized. If nothing else, it is evidence that outdoor advertising, regardless of how much marketers spend on it, still has staying power.