Product News | October 11, 2021

Transit Advertising: How to reach audiences on the move with out-of-home

When we think of out-of-home (OOH) advertising, massive roadside billboards or eye-catching posters often come to mind. However, one form of OOH experiencing a significant resurgence is transit advertising.

After a pandemic-induced decline, transit ridership is now experiencing substantial growth, recovering to nearly 80% of pre-pandemic levels, according to The American Public Transportation Association (APTA). The same report found that transit riders took 7.1 billion trips on public transportation in 2023, a 16% increase over 2022, despite office occupancy remaining stagnant.

This revival is closely linked to the increasing number of consumers opting for public transportation, which presents advertisers with a prime opportunity to engage with a diverse and dynamic audience. In this blog, we’ll explore why transit OOH remains a smart choice for marketers and how it can effectively reach and impact audiences.

Why transit OOH still captivates audiences

Transit advertising refers to the placement of ads on or within public transportation vehicles, like buses, trains, subways, and taxis, as well as in transit stations and terminals. This form of advertising leverages the high visibility and daily foot traffic of public transit systems to reach a large and diverse audience effectively.

While the medium might seem old-fashioned to some modern marketers, it remains effective and seamlessly integrates into consumers’ daily lives. In fact, the Out-of-Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA) found that transit ad spend was the fastest-growing OOH category early this year, growing 18.8% in the first quarter of 2024.

Whether through bus ads that traverse cities, subway ads that reach a captive audience, or in-car and on-platform messaging targeting rail commuters, transit advertising connects brands with communities. With 62% of jobs in the U.S. located within 0.5 miles of a transit stop, transit ads are perfectly positioned to reach a large, engaged audience. And as cities continue to recover and rebuild post-pandemic, OOH advertising, particularly transit OOH, plays a vital role in reviving major urban areas.

Types of transit advertising

Transit advertising effectively reaches a large and diverse audience, especially in cities like New York, where public transportation is the primary mode of travel for many residents. Reflecting the diversity of public transit users, the types of transit OOH advertising are equally varied and expansive. Here are some key types of transit OOH advertising:

  • Airports: Airports offer high dwell time and often attract an affluent audience, making them a prime location for impactful ads. Examples include displays in arrival and departure areas, backlit posters along walkways, branded installations in baggage claim areas, ads on shuttle buses, interactive kiosks, and sponsorship of airport amenities like lounges or charging stations. 
  • Buses: Bus advertising can include full wraps, posters, and interior cards. Buses are particularly effective due to their long dwell time, with commutes ranging from minutes to hours. Their constant travel around communities ensures that ads are seen by riders, pedestrians, and other drivers, significantly expanding their reach.
  • Subways and Trains: Advertising in or on subways and trains can include posters, wraps, interior cards or screens, and branded cars. Operating in high-traffic areas with lots of footfall, subways, and trains offers excellent opportunities for ads to be seen by large and diverse audiences. Long dwell times during commutes also allow for deeper engagement and ad recall. 
  • Transit Stations: Ads on subway station walls and trains, whether static or digital, are great for catching attention thanks to their intermediate dwell times. Riders usually spend a few minutes waiting, which gives them plenty of time to engage with the ads. Advertisers can even purchase all the ad space within a transit station or terminal, known as a “domination,” to create a highly visible and impactful campaign.
  • Taxis & Rideshares: Ads on taxis and rideshare vehicles move through city streets, reaching pedestrians and other drivers. Taxi and rideshare advertising can include vehicle toppers, wraps, and in-car screens. This type of advertising leverages these vehicles’ constant movement and visibility to maximize brand exposure.
  • Mobile Billboard Advertising: Mobile billboards, like screens on the side of commercial vehicles, can target specific neighbourhoods, events, or busy streets, ensuring your message reaches a wide and diverse audience throughout the day. This type of advertising is beneficial as it combines the high visibility of traditional billboards with the flexibility of reaching different areas and demographics.

The strategic advantages of transit OOH

Considering transit OOH advertising can provide significant advantages for your marketing strategy. Here are the unique benefits that make them a smart choice for any campaign.

Long dwell-time

Transit advertising leverages the extended time commuters spend on public transportation. Whether it’s a long bus ride or waiting for a train, individuals have plenty of time to view and absorb ads, boosting brand recall and campaign effectiveness. Commuters often face delays and lengthy waits, creating multiple touchpoint opportunities. According to Statistics Canada, the average daily public transit commute time was 42.9 minutes in 2021. In dense urban cities around the world, like New York City or London, these averages can be even higher.

Cost-effectiveness

With its extensive reach and visibility, transit advertising is an efficient and cost-effective way to target audiences. A 2022 Solomon Partners study found that transit shelters had the lowest estimated median CPM (cost per thousand impressions) among all surveyed media options, at just $2.18 per 1,000 impressions. Additionally, the ability to tailor transit campaigns to specific routes and timeframes allows businesses to optimize their spending and achieve a higher return on investment (ROI). By placing ads in high-traffic areas and during peak travel times, advertisers can ensure their messages reach a broad and diverse audience, driving brand awareness and engagement.

Consistent reach, frequency, and adaptability

Most transit methods follow the same daily routes, particularly buses, trains, and subways. This provides opportunities for repeated exposure, increasing the likelihood of audiences recalling your ad. Digital screens, like those common on bus shelters or transit terminals, offer increased flexibility where ads can be adjusted to reflect conditions like time of day, weather, traffic updates, transit schedules, and more. This adaptability allows for more targeted and relevant messaging, enhancing the campaign’s overall effectiveness. Interactive content can further engage commuters, like scanning QR codes for exclusive offers or information.

Geographic & community targeting

Transit ads are highly effective for geographic and community targeting and engagement. By placing ads on specific transit routes in neighbourhoods, businesses can target local audiences and tailor their messages to resonate with community interests and needs. Advertisers can also leverage creatives in different languages depending on the neighbourhoods, ensuring messages are culturally relevant and accessible. This localized approach fosters a sense of connection by featuring local events, services, or cultural themes, building stronger ties between brands and the communities they serve. 

Expanding audiences beyond riders

The reach of transit advertising extends far beyond just the riders. Ads on the exterior of buses, trains, and taxis travel through busy streets and neighbourhoods, capturing the attention of pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike. This mobile visibility ensures that even those not using public transportation are exposed to the advertisements. Additionally, transit hubs and stations are often located in high-traffic areas where people gather, like shopping districts and business centers, further expanding the reach of these ads. 

Transit OOH advertising offers a versatile tool for reaching a diverse audience with high visibility and flexibility. Its extended dwell times and strategic placement ensure your message is seen by commuters and non-riders. At the same time, cost-effectiveness and high ROI make it appealing for businesses of all sizes. By targeting specific geographic areas and communities, transit advertising connects brands with consumers in impactful ways, making it an essential component of modern marketing campaigns.

Ready to elevate your campaign with transit OOH? Contact us to get started!

Product News | October 11, 2021

As Google works to eliminate third-party cookies, first-party data is going to be more important than ever

With third-party cookies disappearing, Dayna Lang, Content Writer at illumin, shares how to use first-party data for stronger targeting strategies in a post-cookie world.

Third-party cookies are being phased out by major browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, leaving many marketers at a loss. How can marketers pivot and build stronger, more resilient targeting strategies in a post-cookie world? In finding their footing, marketers need to lean on first-party data to understand customers and effectively target audiences. 

Marketers have known about Google’s goodbye plans for third-party cookies since 2018 when GDPR was enacted in the European Union. Marketers have spent the years since building out new strategies. First-party data is a critical part of those strategies. 

Procrastination is easy when developing post-cookie strategies, especially since Google continues to delay its cookie deadlines. While the extension is appreciated, giving marketers and industry regulators more time to provide feedback solutions doesn’t prevent the inevitable. 

Marketers should be moving full-speed ahead on their post-cookie plans. First-party cookies provide a critical tool for marketers looking to provide privacy-compliant media in a post-cookie era

First-party data refers to data collected directly from customers. Unlike third-party cookies, first-party data relies on users’ consent. This data is held in high esteem for a good reason. Since data is collected firstly from users, it is reliable and easy to manage. It is also cost-effective and highly accurate. 

This data can also be used to effectively target audiences in the real world through out-of-home advertising. Advancements in OOH technology let brands easily create effective, targeted campaigns using first-party data. 

One way brands can do this is by using first-party data to understand where and when users shop (ie: audiences’ shopping at a certain time of year). Brands can then plan their media around this time frame and location to effectively target and engage their audience. 

In a post-cookie world, first-party data will be the gold standard. It fills a necessary data gap while respecting user consent and privacy. It’s no wonder why Advertiser Perceptions lists it as the number one type of data used for transactions. 

Customers are happy to share their data with you – for a price

Collecting first-party data requires trust, privacy, and customer value. According to a study by BCG, 90% of consumers will share personal information given a valuable incentive. This can look like tailored discounts, streamlined processes, downloadable content, or personalized experiences. So long as marketers provide something of value, gathering first-party data is relatively easy. 

Something marketers need to maintain to leverage first-party data is trust. The basis of the cookie issue has always been customer privacy. This makes consumer consent a primary concern for all data use going forward. 

Google’s decision to eliminate third-party cookies was the culmination of years of effort to advocate for user consent and privacy. The goal isn’t to inconvenience marketers but to empower consumers to control where and when their information is gathered, shared, and used. By prioritizing consent and data security at all times, marketers can ensure their strategies will outlast any future privacy protection measures.

That’s why first-party data fits so perfectly within a post-cookie strategy. First-party data hinges on user trust and consent. As the digital world adapts to the loss of third-party cookies, first-party information fills a gap and gives marketers tools to target users and tailor content to reach customers where it matters most. 

Product News | October 11, 2021

What is programmatic digital out-of-home (pDOOH)?

If your agency or brand uses online advertising, you may already know the basics of programmatic ad buying or have even set up a campaign using a demand-side platform (DSP). But even if the technology is similar, a few features of programmatic DOOH are unique compared to other digital formats, and there are certain factors to consider when integrating pDOOH in your omnichannel strategy – especially if the outdoor space is totally unfamiliar to you.

But what is pDOOH, exactly? Programmatic digital out-of-home, also known as programmatic DOOH or pDOOH, refers to the automated buying, selling, and delivery of out-of-home (OOH) advertising – that’s ads on digital billboards and signage.

Sounds simple? In a way, it is. With programmatic DOOH, computers are automating the sale and delivery of ad content in a similar way to what you see with most online advertising. Buyers will set conditions under which they want to buy media; when those conditions are met, ads are automatically purchased.

However, since programmatic DOOH ads appear out in the world and not on personal devices, your approach to building a programmatic DOOH campaign will likely differ from what you’re used to online.

Here’s a closer look at what programmatic DOOH is and how to use it to its full potential.

Jump ahead to:

What is digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising? A quick refresher on why DOOH is great in general

Marketers are increasingly seeing the value of DOOH, and it’s reflected in the continued growth of out-of-home advertising. In fact, one-third of all OOH ad spend in 2023 was directed to DOOH — and it’s projected to grow another 10% by the end of 2024. 

So, what is DOOH media? There’s a lot to love, but here are a few standout details.

  • DOOH ads can offer unmatched size: Big digital screens offer a lot of room to execute visually stunning ideas (see our favourite OOH and billboard ads) in a way you can’t match on personal devices. Even smaller DOOH displays, like digital signage, totems, and displays on bus stops, are going to offer a larger canvas with great visual potential. 
  • DOOH is unskippable and ad-block-proof: If people are around a digital display, they’re going to see it. There are no ad-blockers, no below-the-fold positions, and no issue of users switching over to a different app or tab. That’s partly why nine in ten U.S. adults (88%) notice OOH ads, and nearly 80% have engaged with an OOH ad in the past 60 days.
  • (D)OOH supercharges your other channels: Yes, digital out-of-home and traditional OOH advertising are impactful on their own, but they shine when you pair them with other advertising channels. Research from MRI-Simmons and the Outdoor Advertising Association of America found that using OOH alongside other channels can boost reach by as much as 100%.
  • DOOH drives real-world action: A new Harris Poll study reveals that DOOH is the preferred and most motivating medium compared to other forms of advertising. Notably, 76% of recent DOOH ad viewers reported taking action in response to an ad, highlighting its effectiveness in driving consumer behaviour.

pDOOH vs DOOH: Why programmatic digital out-of-home is even better

So take everything great about DOOH and layer extra data, better targeting, and easy access. That’s what you’re looking at with programmatic DOOH. Let’s dig into that in a little more detail.

Programmatic DOOH is DOOH improved by data

  • Programmatic DOOH uses data analytics to provide detailed insights into campaign performance, including audience engagement and effectiveness. 
  • Traditional DOOH campaigns typically rely on less granular data, such as general traffic patterns and location demographics, limiting the ability to tailor and optimize campaigns effectively.

While traditional DOOH relies on more general metrics and lacks the granular data needed for in-depth analysis, programmatic DOOH uses data analytics to provide detailed insights into campaign performance, including audience engagement and effectiveness. This helps advertisers optimize their strategies and improve ROI.

The key to understanding programmatic DOOH is this: programmatic transactions allow you to set specific conditions based on external data that will trigger a DOOH ad slot purchase. The fun thing is that there are virtually no limits to the kinds of data that can be used to trigger content.

There are simple options, like having different creatives delivered based on the time of day. There are also slightly more advanced options, like the weather, daily market performance, or the ongoing results of a sporting event. You can even use live audience information to trigger content that is ideal for the majority of people at a location at any given time.

And, of course, you can use multiple triggers based on multiple data sources to get really granular with your targeting.

This all leads to great things. Using one or more data triggers to drive a programmatic DOOH campaign can open the door to creative and memorable campaigns. Better still, it helps ensure your audience sees your ads at the most relevant times.

Example: See how foodora used weather, time of day, and location data to drive a creative, effective, and very relevant programmatic DOOH campaign.

Programmatic DOOH is faster and more flexible

  • Programmatic DOOH allows advertisers to purchase ad space in real-time through automated bidding platforms, allowing advertisers to adjust their campaigns based on performance, availability, and changing conditions.
  • Traditional DOOH often requires pre-booking ad space, limiting flexibility and responsiveness.

Unlike classic or directly purchased DOOH, pDOOH allows advertisers to buy inventory in near real-time without needing upfront commitments or predefined schedules. This provides a high degree of flexibility and responsiveness, minimizes lead times, and makes optimizing ad placements and adjusting spending on the fly easier. 

Survey results from IAB Australia’s 2024 Attitudes to Programmatic DOOH report show that just over half (52%) of advertisers see programmatic DOOH as a significant or regularly considered part of their activity, and a further 36% have experimented with it. Flexible buying is a key factor, with 68% of agencies and 55% of brand marketers and advertisers citing programmatic flexibility as a major driver for usage. 

Strictly speaking, programmatic doesn’t enable anything that can’t be accomplished with a direct buy. The difference programmatic makes is in terms of speed and efficiency. You can deliver relevant messaging much more quickly and without making repeated direct buys.

In the foodora example above, audiences were delivered different messages at lunch and around dinnertime. They were prompted to go for a nice walk to pick up their food if it was sunny and to treat themselves to delivery when it was raining. The restaurants suggested to them differed depending on where they were located when seeing the ad. All of this was accomplished without additional input from foodora once the campaign had been set up.

Programmatic can help you accomplish similar results for whatever conditions you want to set. As soon as the time is right, you can automatically deliver the right message to the right screen to reach your audience, whoever they are.

Programmatic DOOH is easily accessible through leading DSPs

More and more DSPs are getting on board with programmatic DOOH. It’s making adding DOOH to multichannel campaigns much more straightforward, and we’re already seeing buyers use this opportunity significantly. 

Existing content can often be easily adapted to suit a digital out-of-home display. The medium’s support for dynamic DOOH and adaptive HTML5 formats, in particular, can greatly help buyers reuse existing content from an online and/or mobile campaign in a programmatic DOOH campaign.

As a bonus, programmatic allows you to buy across multiple publishers simultaneously. It’s much quicker and easier to build a programmatic campaign targeting screens across various networks than reaching out to each business individually to coordinate your buy.

As more DSPs begin to support programmatic DOOH and more buyers start incorporating the medium into their campaigns, the format will likely become an integral part of most mainstream media buys.

Measuring the effectiveness and ROI of programmatic DOOH campaigns

Many brands approach DOOH expecting a measurement standard equivalent to the online impression or gross rating point (GRP). However, DOOH media is different. It spans a variety of display types, not just browsers, TVs, or apps, which presents challenges in creating fully standardized metrics. 

Another key difference is that ads are served in a one-to-one environment when you load a web page, so ‘one ad served’ equals ‘one impression.’ By contrast, DOOH advertising is served in a one-to-many environment. A single DOOH ad has the potential to achieve hundreds of impressions. But how can we really know that? And what does a DOOH impression look like anyway? 

Fortunately, several reliable and rigorous measurement methods are available to help make a strong case for DOOH, and these have been bolstered even further in recent years through the growth of programmatic transactions in the DOOH space. 

Key performance metrics to measure the success of pDOOH

OOH is fundamentally a brand awareness medium. There’s lots of evidence that OOH campaigns can have a significant positive impact on metrics such as brand awareness and brand recall. However,  marketers likely also want to measure the impact of adding DOOH to their other channels. 

Technological advancements are now making it possible to obtain reliable, trustworthy, and privacy-compliant data to analyze campaign performance. Understanding which specific metrics you want to track and measure ahead of time will make it easier to design and evaluate the campaign’s overall success.

Some of the top measurement solutions for direct attribution include:

  • Brand lift: Often conducted via surveys broadcasted in geo-locations within a specific zone of the exposed DOOH screens, brand lift studies seek to measure a DOOH campaign’s effect on overall brand metrics like ad recall, awareness and perception, consideration, and intent.
  • Foot traffic attribution: Commonly used by brands with physical locations to measure a lift in store visits post-DOOH exposure, foot traffic studies provide insights into immediate attribution by mapping audience travel patterns before and after they pass specific screens or points of interest.
  • Mobile retargeting/mobile ID passback: Including mobile retargeting in your omnichannel strategy is one of the best ways to amplify your campaign. Data experts specializing in device ID passback capture device IDs when audiences enter defined location boundaries. This data is then analyzed and translated into qualified audience profiles, which can later be retargeted with mobile ads via your DSP. Capturing exposed device IDs can enable additional measurement of how your DOOH campaign impacted other media channels.
  • QR code attribution: QR codes on DOOH ads offer an interactive and accurate way to measure engagement by tracking the number of codes scanned and sequential offers delivered based on interactions. They also allow for A/B performance testing and help measure converted sales that can be directly attributed to each campaign. 

For more expert insights and campaign planning tips, check out our actionable guide, 6 steps for integrating DOOH in your omnichannel marketing strategy.

Examples of pDOOH in action

Looking for inspiration? Here are two programmatic digital out-of-home advertising examples that show how different agencies and brands have leveraged the medium.

Holt Renfrew: Driving in-store foot traffic & boosting intent

With Nordstrom closing its doors in Canada, Holt Renfrew, the country’s largest fashion and lifestyle retailer, wanted to capitalize on the shutdown of its competitor to regain market share in key customer demographics. More specifically, it wanted to boost consideration and drive consumers to its brick-and-mortar stores nationwide. 

The retailer did so by simultaneously launching two large-scale programmatic digital out-of-home campaigns promoting its ‘Holts <3’ sale event, partnering with Havas agency to launch the campaign via the Broadsign Ads DSP in major Canadian cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.

WATCH: See how Holt Renfrew’s large-scale programmatic campaign boosted brand KPIs

Read the full Holt Renfrew case study to learn how the luxury retailer drove 400,000 store visits and a +500% lift in purchase intent with its programmatic digital OOH campaign.

Sea-Doo: Increasing Purchase Consideration in Florida

Sea-Doo, a brand of personal watercraft and boats manufactured by Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP), recently sought to strengthen brand recognition, purchase consideration, and share of voice in its primary market of Florida. 

To reach its core audience of personal watercraft, pontoon, and fishing enthusiasts, the brand turned to programmatic DOOH — its first experience with the medium. Launched in collaboration with Touché! agency and Broadsign Ads DSP, the DOOH campaign ran alongside other channels like search and social media and resulted in a +144% lift in purchase consideration. The campaign also provided a major boost in brand perception, creating a +130% lift in positive brand image

WATCH: See the behind-the-scenes of Sea-Doo’s campaign with Touché agency

Read the full Sea-Doo case study to learn how the brand’s first digital OOH campaign increased purchase consideration in key cities like Orlando, Jacksonville, and Tampa.

Educational resources for programmatic DOOH

Though programmatic DOOH has come a long way, even in the past couple of years, the industry still needs to overcome some challenges.

According to new research from JCDecaux UK, most people buying DOOH advertising programmatically (over three-quarters, or 77%, of UK pDOOH marketers) are always directly involved in planning or buying at least one other channel. That means most teams tasked with buying programmatic digital out-of-home (pDOOH) media today are not made up of dedicated OOH specialists but broader digital buyers who are now including DOOH in their programmatic planning mix.

While these findings indicate the increased accessibility of programmatic DOOH, they also hint at the growing need for integrated omnichannel teams to gain the OOH expertise required to incorporate pDOOH successfully and productively into their cross-channel planning.

We’ve compiled some resources to help you learn more about programmatic DOOH:

Programmatic DOOH is still relatively young, but it’s also an exciting playground for digital newcomers. Take it for a spin and see how it enhances your existing campaigns. You might be surprised by just how much it helps!

Learn how to plan, trade, and succeed in pDOOH in our specialist doohx course designed for those on the buy-side of programmatic DOOH. Upskill your knowledge or build a team ready to take advantage of the latest innovations, technologies, and opportunities pDOOH offers.

Product News | October 11, 2021

How to boost your back-to-school campaigns with OOH advertising

Yearly back-to-school shopping typically involves students leading their parents on a scavenger hunt through department stores in search of school supplies. For many, the beginning of a new school year means new clothes, shoes, and a fresh start. 

The back-to-school season is also an important time for brands and businesses, both online and in-person. As the second-biggest shopping event of the year, it provides an opportunity for retailers to attract consumers online and in-store. This influx of shopping activity significantly boosts sales revenue for retailers and brands, especially those selling school-related items like clothing, electronics, stationery, backpacks, and more. In fact, Americans spent a total of $135.5 billion for back-to-school and back-to-college shopping in 2023, a number projected to grow to $189.7 by 2028.

According to Sensormatic Solutions’ U.S. Back-to-School Consumer Sentiment Survey, 79% of shoppers plan to head into stores this year, a steady increase from previous years, with 80% planning to start back-to-school shopping in July or August. “The entire shopping journey will be about minimizing costs. Parents plan to shop earlier for deals, pay with cash, and prioritize in-store purchases,” Stephen Rogers, Managing Director at Deloitte, said in last year’s Deloitte back-to-school survey.

This early shopping mindset presents a significant opportunity for brands, retailers, and advertisers to capture consumers’ attention. One of the most effective ways to do this is through out-of-home (OOH) advertising, which drives traffic and influences purchasing decisions in person and online.

Strategies for effective back-to-school OOH advertising

According to new data from the OAAA and The Harris Poll, 73% of consumers view OOH ads favourably, higher than other media channels like TV/video, social media, and online ads. Here are our top strategies for leveraging the medium to capture shoppers’ attention during the bustling back-to-school season. 

Targeted ad placements

With 60% of shoppers planning to visit two or three stores for their back-to-school shopping, activating strategic OOH ads can help boost foot traffic and drive audiences directly in-store. Placing ads in high-traffic areas, like near schools, shopping malls, and transit routes frequented by students and parents, can maximize visibility. Transit routes like bus shelters, subway stations, and billboards on roads used by students and parents are a great way to ensure the right people see your ads.

Kellogg’s back-to-school ad promoting its cereal brands

Ads placed in close proximity to retail stores can capture consumers when they are already in a shopping mindset. The OAAA reports that 30% of consumers have recently noticed ads providing directions to businesses. Of those who saw directional DOOH ads, 51% visited the advertised business, and 93% of those visitors made a purchase, highlighting the real-world business impact of DOOH ads. Engaging audiences directly at or near a point of sale allows advertisers to streamline the customer journey, capitalizing on the effectiveness of OOH in boosting brand awareness and driving sales. 

Contextual, relevant messaging

Crafting timely and relevant messages for your OOH ads can significantly enhance their effectiveness. With 67% of back-to-school and college consumers reporting higher prices on back-to-class items, dynamic OOH ads tailored to contextual settings or time-specific discounts play a key role in capturing attention and prompting action – especially as inflation continues to affect the average household. 

Thanks to ongoing advancements in programmatic digital OOH (pDOOH), advertisers can also trigger ads based on real-time data conditions like weather, traffic, special offers, events, and more. Retailers can even run ads based on inventory triggers, like promoting special discounts when a particular store has an overstock of supplies. 

It’s also important to customize your messaging to resonate with the specific needs and culture of the local community. For example, ads in university towns might focus on dorm essentials and campus gear. And it’s not just retailers who can benefit; local businesses can also take advantage of the season by running offers in student-heavy areas, like promoting discounts for students or special deals on group meals. 

Tesco promotes its back-to-school via OOH in a shopping mall

Timing is everything

Timing your ad campaign right is essential to maximize ROI. Planning ahead and giving yourself plenty of time to perfect your creative and think through your strategy will set you up for a successful back-to-school campaign.

  • Get started early: Launch your OOH campaign several weeks before the back-to-school rush to build awareness and anticipation.
  • Peak shopping periods: Focus your advertising efforts on peak back-to-school shopping periods from late July to early August.
  • Dayparting: Schedule your ads to run when your target audience is most likely to see them, such as morning and afternoon commutes.

Amplifying digital reach with OOH

OOH advertising is not just about physical presence; it can also drive digital engagement. According to data from a recent study by The Harris Poll and OAAA, over three-quarters of US adults recently used their smartphones to engage with an OOH ad, with 43% of these interactions leading to online purchases. 

OOH ads can effectively drive traffic to online stores and social media platforms. For example, including QR codes or short URLs on OOH ads can encourage viewers to visit your website for exclusive back-to-school deals. Additionally, promoting social media contests or giveaways through OOH ads can increase engagement and followership, like a campaign where students share photos of their back-to-school outfits with a specific hashtag for a chance to win a gift card. This integration of physical and digital marketing strategies amplifies reach and fosters a more interactive consumer experience.

Retargeting campaigns

Geofencing technology can enhance the effectiveness of OOH ads by enabling retargeting. Brands can define virtual boundaries around specific geographic areas. When a mobile device enters these areas, it can trigger location-based ads or notifications. This allows for hyper-localized advertising, ensuring your message reaches the right audience at the right time. Brands can also leverage Connected TV (CTV) to deliver highly targeted campaigns, effortlessly expanding the reach of video promos by repurposing them in DOOH venues such as elevator screens in residential and office buildings, malls, and other locations with longer dwell times.

The back-to-school season is a prime time for brands to connect with consumers and boost sales. Incorporating OOH into your marketing strategy is a strategic way to reach parents, students, and teachers where they’re at, increasing brand awareness and prompting them to take action. 

Interested in getting started with DOOH this back-to-school shopping season?

Explore curated audiences in our Retail package here!

Product News | October 11, 2021

What is out-of-home (OOH) advertising? A beginner’s guide for marketers and media buyers

Out-of-home advertising displaying on a huge digital display at Piccadilly Circus in London, England. Ads for Coca Cola, Samsung, and other prominent brands are present on the screen.

Out-of-home (OOH) advertising, also known as outdoor advertising, refers to billboards, signage, or other highly visual, highly impactful media displayed in public spaces people walk past and drive by every day. It also represents one of the biggest opportunities for advertisers to connect with their target audience outside the crowded context of their personal devices.

According to Solomon Partners’ 2023 benchmark report, out-of-home advertising produces the highest levels of consumer recall compared to other media channels — surpassing traditional mediums like print, podcasts/radio, and television, as well as online executions via desktop and mobile. That means people are taking notice of OOH media at a time when rising competition and an already crowded ad landscape have made it more difficult than ever to stay top of mind. 

In our 20+ years of OOH experience, we’ve learned a thing or two about this exciting (and continuously evolving) advertising medium. To make it easy for you, we’ve divided this blog into sections so you can easily find what you need.

Types of OOH advertising

You might picture huge roadside billboards when thinking about outdoor advertising — and while that is a key part of it, one of the fun things about OOH advertising is the sheer variety that’s found within the space. From small static posters to digital screens triple the size of a regulation football field, today’s marketers have an incredible array of opportunities to connect with audiences in the OOH space.

OOH vs. DOOH

Broadly speaking, today’s out-of-home advertising falls into one of two categories: traditional (i.e., static) OOH or digital OOH.

As you might guess, digital out-of-home (DOOH) is a digital subset of out-of-home advertising. Dynamic, data-driven, and capable of delivering measurable impact and proven results, DOOH refers to any digital media that appears in environments accessible to the public. This includes digital billboards, menu boards, and screens found at retail stores, inside elevators, or connected to public EV charging stations.

Meanwhile, traditional OOH persists as a powerful and effective advertising medium that can provide advertisers with a competitive edge. With their eye-catching large formats, long-term exposure, and strategic placements, static billboards continue to thrive in the digital age

Traditional (i.e. static) OOH

Advantages:

  • 100% share of voice
  • Always on
  • Long-term exposure
  • CPM is typically significantly lower than other formats
  • Increased creativity, as many billboard companies allow for design and messaging that extend past hard dimensions

Considerations:

  • Activation/installation can be time-consuming and costly
  • Not easy to update or swap out an advertisement (and doing so will incur additional costs)
  • Over time, ads may lose their novelty or impact
  • Static billboards may require maintenance due to environmental changes
Static OOH billboard promoting Apple’s iPhone 12

Digital OOH (DOOH)

Advantages:

  • Support for multiple ad formats (video, motion graphics, dynamic HTML5 content, etc.)
  • Quick, cost-effective turnaround
  • Easy to make real-time updates to ad creative
  • Factors such as weather, news alerts, or traffic patterns can serve as triggers to run specialized ads
  • Ability to be bought programmatically (pDOOH)

Considerations:

  • Exposure time is shared amongst other advertisers
  • Most ads only remain visible for 8-10 seconds
  • Can be more expensive to purchase than static billboards
A digital OOH billboard from KitKat’s ‘Have a Break’ campaign

Static and digital billboards and various other out-of-home media formats have demonstrated their effectiveness in today’s diverse advertising landscape. The crucial consideration comes down to determining which type of OOH advertising best suits your particular circumstances, desired outcomes, and overall campaign goals.

Media formats

The Out of Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA) categorizes standard OOH media formats into:

  1. Billboards (like Bulletins and Posters)
  2. Street furniture (like Bus Shelters and Urban Panels)
  3. Transit (like Airports and Taxis)
  4. Place-based (like Malls and Restaurants)

Benefits of out-of-home advertising

OOH advertising offers several benefits that make it a valuable option for marketers and brand advertisers. Here are some key points to consider if you’re thinking about incorporating OOH into your larger marketing strategy:

High visibility and reach: Nine in ten U.S. adults (88%) notice OOH ads, and nearly 80% have engaged with an OOH ad in the past 60 days, according to a recent OAAA and Morning Consult survey. OOH advertising can be strategically placed in high-traffic areas, such as city centers, highways, and transit hubs, to maximize reach and target a large and diverse audience — including those who are difficult to reach through other media channels.

Brand safety and environment: Free from the risks of ad fraud and brand safety issues associated with online advertising, high-quality, well-placed OOH ads can actually enhance brand perception and credibility, contributing to a positive brand association. A new Harris Poll study found that a staggering 73% of consumers view digital out-of-home ads favorably, significantly surpassing other forms of ad media such as television/video (50%), social media (48%), online (37%), audio (32%), and print (31%).

Targeted placement: OOH advertising locations can be selected to reach specific demographics based on the area’s typical foot or vehicle traffic. Additionally, ads can be placed in contexts where they’re most relevant, like near shopping centers, business districts, or entertainment venues. The same Harris Poll study found that 51% of consumers who noticed directional DOOH ads subsequently visited the advertised business — and the overwhelming majority (93%) of those who visited a business after viewing the ads ended up making some kind of purchase. 

Drives online activity: OOH is the most effective offline medium in driving online activity and can enhance the effectiveness of other advertising channels by reinforcing messaging seen elsewhere, such as on TV or online. Repeated exposure in different contexts (e.g., during the daily commute and on social media) is also shown to maximize your campaign impact and improve brand recognition and recall.

Cost-effectiveness: Per Solomon Partners’ 2023 Media Trends Report, the average CPM of an OOH ad in the U.S. market ranges between USD$2 and USD$9 per thousand impressions — a relative bargain compared to other advertising channels like broadcast TV (where ads can have a CPM of anywhere between USD$16-45) and device-based digital video (with the average cost of mobile and desktop digital video ads climbing to USD$40 on the higher end). 

What’s possible with today’s OOH

In 2024, OOH is a fast-growing ad medium and an important part of a full-funnel marketing mix — especially as DOOH advances and its programmatic capabilities continue to evolve.

Flexible buying options

Like online digital advertising, digital out-of-home advertising is now available for purchase programmatically. This means that ad slots are made available for automated purchase based on the criteria selected by the buyer. 

Programmatic digital out-of-home, or pDOOH, can be used to target a specific audience demographic, or it can be used to purchase ads based on ambient conditions – such as the weather, live sports scores, time of day, etc. Unlike classic or directly purchased DOOH, pDOOH allows advertisers to buy inventory in near real-time without the need for upfront commitments or predefined schedules. This provides a high degree of flexibility and responsiveness, minimizing lead times and making optimizing ad placements and adjusting spending on the fly easier. 

While programmatic transacting isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for all of the out-of-home advertising possibilities outlined below, the streamlined workflows of today’s demand-side platforms (DSPs) are one of the many factors driving pDOOH usage amongst marketers. Others include improved third-party data integration, increased operational efficiency, enhanced reach, and more in-depth campaign targeting and measurement capabilities. 

There’s a lot to talk about with programmatic outdoor advertising. If you’re interested in digging into this topic more, check out our eBook, The Media Buyer’s Guide to Programmatic Digital Out-of-Home, to learn all about it. Otherwise, read on to find out more about the exciting possibilities of today’s OOH advertising.

Enhanced targeting and personalization

The advent of digital out-of-home advertising has significantly enhanced personalization and targeting capabilities. Marketers can now leverage data to target specific demographics and deliver personalized messages based on the location and behavior of the audience. And in an increasingly cluttered media landscape, activating OOH at the right place and time to reach your desired demographic is key.

Examples of data sources marketers can use to run the most effective OOH campaigns possible include: 

  • Mobile location data: Leveraging GPS and mobile data, advertisers can target specific demographics and points of interest (POI) to deliver personalized messages based on the location and behavior of the audience.
  • First-party customer data: Marketers can also combine first-party data with their OOH strategy to better understand the preferences and behavior of their target audience.

Many OOH networks integrate with mobile data providers to get a historical view of audience demographics and movement around their displays. Advertisers can use this data to help decide which locations are the best fit for their campaign. For example, a brand promoting noise-canceling headphones might want to place ads near locations where students spend time, like universities, libraries, public transit, and gyms.

Marketers can also combine first-party data within their OOH strategy to reach audiences with contextually relevant ads. One such advertising approach that’s gained popularity over the years is the rise of retail media networks (RMNs). Retailers (and by extension, their RMNs) have access to large amounts of first-party customer data through their owned and operated digital platforms.

While they’ve traditionally operated within digital retail environments, RMNs are now diversifying to include offline channels like OOH to catch consumer attention in-store. A primary benefit is that this data can be used across various channels, such as digital display, CTV, social media, and DOOH. This allows marketers to deliver hyper-personalized offerings through online and email campaigns, loyalty programs, in-store offers, and more.

Dynamic content and real-time updates

Improvements in real-time data integration have revolutionized OOH advertising, allowing brands to dynamically alter their messaging in response to immediate conditions and events. Marketers can now adapt their digital out-of-home messages on the fly, responding to changing conditions and audience needs. This capability ensures that advertisements remain relevant, timely, and engaging, enabling advertisers to deliver timely, impactful messages that enhance engagement and drive results.

Here are several ways real-time updates are transforming OOH advertising:

  • Dynamic content delivery: Today, it’s possible to have digital out-of-home (DOOH) displays automatically change content in response to all manner of real-time data triggers, enabling engaging real-time interactions with the people standing in front of them.
  • Real-time campaign adjustments: Marketers can adjust campaigns in real-time based on performance data, optimizing ad spend, and improving ROI. 

Dynamic DOOH advertising enables brands to capitalize on the power of personalization while reaching a more engaged audience through contextual conversations with technology. In fact, research has shown that using contextually relevant (i.e., dynamic) DOOH campaigns increases advertising awareness by +18%

The potential triggers for a dynamic DOOH campaign are essentially limitless. Everything from weather data to financial marketing data, to sports results, to on-location visual sensors can be used to trigger changes to on-screen content. Whatever the data source, the goal is always to draw on that data to provide a more appealing, more relevant content experience.

Today’s marketers can also leverage technology and real-time data analytics to continuously optimize ad performance over the course of a campaign. This agile approach ensures that advertising campaigns remain relevant, cost-effective, and impactful by responding instantly to changing conditions and audience behaviours. 

Cross-channel integration

Recent technological advancements have significantly enhanced cross-channel integration capabilities for OOH advertising, making it more interconnected with digital, social, and mobile channels. 

In addition to creating more cohesive, engaging, and effective advertising campaigns, marketers can use cross-channel analytics to track the performance of OOH campaigns alongside other media, offering a comprehensive view of campaign effectiveness and ROI. Improved analytics tools allow for better measurement and attribution of OOH ad impact in conjunction with other media, providing a holistic understanding of campaign effectiveness.

READ ALSO: 6 Steps for Integrating Digital Out-of-Home in Your Omnichannel Marketing Strategy

Examples of OOH in action

Need some inspiration? Here are some examples of how different brands have leveraged the medium.

Sea-Doo: Increasing Purchase Consideration in Florida

To reach its core audience of personal watercraft, pontoon, and fishing enthusiasts, Sea-Doo launched a programmatic DOOH campaign in Florida alongside other channels like search and social media that resulted in a +144% lift in purchase consideration. The campaign also provided a major boost in brand perception, creating a +130% lift in positive brand image

H&M Portugal: Boosting brand image and ad recall

When major international clothing retailer H&M wanted to drive brand awareness and increase sales of its fashion collection across key Portuguese markets, the brand turned to programmatic DOOH to support its omnichannel campaign for fashion-conscious consumers. Video ads promoting the seasonal clothing collection were shown on screens in malls, subways, and train stations, resulting in a +81% lift in brand image.

Want to see how major brands and advertisers are integrating outdoor and out-of-home advertising into their media strategies?

Check out our collection of case studies for inspiration!