The Role of Digital Out-of-Home Advertising in the Endemic Era

By Susan Linney


While out-of-home advertising took a beating in 2020 due to COVID-19 lockdowns, it’s on the rebound in a big way in 2022. Digital innovations have modernized the channel in new and exciting ways, giving advertisers smart, impactful, and cost-effective opportunities to influence consumers while they’re away from their devices and navigating their physical worlds.
Out of home (OOH) advertising has been around for centuries in its simplest forms, from the early days of the printing press to the advent of billboards in the 1800s. It’s remained a viable form of media for so many years because it has continuously adapted to changing trends, new ad formats, and emerging technologies. This remains the case in today’s endemic era, as shoppers return to the outside world and digital out of home (DOOH) channels leverage data to create ad experiences that are more dynamic and engaging than ever before.
According to eMarketer, more than two-fifths of all outdoor ad spending will go toward DOOH advertising by 2025. Here’s a look at what’s driving this growth in the post-pandemic marketing landscape, as well as some emerging DOOH trends that brands should be tapping into in 2022.

Device Burnout & Screen Fatigue

Today’s consumers are experiencing digital device burnout — and it’s affecting the way they respond to different types of advertising. According to a report from the Out of Home Advertising Association of America, 75 percent of online shoppers say they tune out digital ads because they already spend so much time on their desktops and mobile devices. In contrast, 55 percent of big-city consumers say they are noticing OOH messaging and signage more frequently, and 34 percent say OOH ads are now influencing their purchasing decisions.
After months of lockdown and dependence on desktop and mobile devices for shopping, consumers are highly receptive to out-of-home ads. And thanks to new innovations in DOOH technology (more on that in a minute), it’s easier than ever for brands to use these real-world touchpoints to successfully connect with consumers.

Digitization of the Physical World

As smart technology becomes more accessible and mainstream, the world around us is being digitalized at an increasingly fast pace. This includes the digitization of out-of-home advertising, most notably when it comes to billboards and other types of signage. The Outdoor Advertising Association of America reports that in just four years, the number of digital billboards in the U.S. grew by 43 percent — from 6,700 in 2016 to 9,600 in 2020. 

This increase gives digital marketers more opportunities to connect with consumers when they’re not glued to their mobile devices. At the same time, because digital billboards can be powered by the same data-driven, ROI-boosting strategies that drive online campaigns, they are more effective than their static counterparts. Digital billboards are constantly collecting data from the mobile devices of passersby, leveraging location, search history, and other essential info to serve targeted, personalized content to consumers in their physical surroundings.

Omnichannel Everything

Savvy marketers know that omnichannel campaigns have become essential for success in the endemic era. DOOH fits perfectly into this media mix by connecting the customer journey across online and real-world touchpoints. With location-based services such as geofencing, for example, marketers can target specific areas where consumers are more likely to engage with their business. In addition to displaying relevant DOOH ads to people in those areas, geofencing can be used to retarget consumers by serving them follow-up ads on their mobile devices after they’ve passed by a billboard.

People who view an ad on a different device after initially seeing it OOH are 46 percent more likely to engage with the brand on mobile. 

Marketers can also use DOOH to deliver dynamic ads that are contextually relevant to consumers, targeting audiences based on data triggers such as weather, time of day, and traffic conditions. This gives brands the opportunity to create hyperlocal campaigns at scale, on high-reach platforms that can’t be skipped by consumers or hidden by ad blockers. As the death of the cookie approaches and brands lose access to valuable third-party data, DOOH becomes an even more valuable tool for boosting brand awareness among large audiences.

3 DOOH Trends to Track

1. Programmatic DOOH

Dynamic digital signage that can target key consumers at scale has become accessible to brands of all shapes and sizes thanks to programmatic technology, which is relatively new in the DOOH space. Just like programmatic online advertising, programmatic DOOH (pDOOH) is sold and placed using automated software, making the process less expensive and more efficient than manual ad buying. It gives advertisers the ability to purchase ads based on key criteria culled from data and metrics, minimizing their costs and ensuring their messaging is seen by the right people at the right time and in the right place.
In addition, because pDOOH ads are driven by data, marketers can evaluate campaign performance in real-time and make changes to improve their effectiveness — just as they can with online ads. For example, they can track changes in audience movement patterns and footfall traffic and then shift their strategies accordingly to optimize OOH campaigns while they are still in flight.

2. In-Store Signage

As more and more shoppers return to brick-and-mortar locations, there’s been an uptick in the use of in-store digital signage to help improve customer experience and drive sales. Because digital displays can be instantly updated and changed (unlike traditional store displays), they are ideal for alerting customers to rotating in-store promotions and other limited-time deals shoppers might otherwise miss while browsing the aisles.
As far as customer experience goes, sprinkling digital screens throughout a store can go a long way toward boosting brand awareness and building trust with consumers. Videos can tell a brand’s story and highlight what sets them apart from others, such as the use of ethically sourced materials or the fact that all goods are American-made.  

Displays for retail can boost sales up to 33 percent while also significantly boosting brand awareness and recall rates.

Brick-and-mortar retailers can also use DOOH to enhance multichannel campaigns and build a bridge between their online and in-store presence. For example, interactive digital screens can be used in-store to let shoppers browse all the products a brand carries, not just the ones in stock at the location they are in.

3. Non-Traditional Formats

DOOH isn’t limited to digital billboards and in-store displays. More and more non-traditional placements are popping up in real-world spaces like gyms, cabs, rideshare cars, elevators, food courts, shopping malls, and more. As technological advancements in DOOH create more and more opportunities for brands to reach consumers while they’re offline, these creative ad placements will only continue to grow. 
Hand sanitizer kiosks are great examples of non-traditional formats born from the pandemic. Placed in malls, medical facilities, grocery stores, and other high-traffic locations, these kiosks have no problem attracting passersby with their free offering of hand sanitizer. While the user applies their Purell, they’re almost definitely going to view the attached digital display. Given the world in which we currently live, these kiosks are highly effective DOOH formats that showcase the value of aligning advertising strategies with social trends of the time.

DOOH Is Here to Stay

While out-of-home advertising took a beating in 2020 due to COVID-19 lockdowns, it’s on the rebound in a big way in 2022. Digital innovations have modernized the channel in new and exciting ways, giving advertisers smart, impactful, and cost-effective opportunities to influence consumers while they’re in the real world. DOOH has also become a must-include component for omnichannel strategies, extending the customer journey and creating a seamless brand experience across online, in-store, billboards, and other OOH advertising.

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