Outdoor advertising is huge. Yet when we think about who uses it, most will think of well-known and global brands. Why is that? What’s stopping all those other businesses from using it in their marketing strategies? Here we consider four areas that if addressed will change the outdoor advertising game.
Billboard advertising is one of the oldest ways to advertise. It comes in all shapes and sizes on our way to work, in shopping centres, at airports, train and bus stations. Basically, everywhere there’s a space to market something. “Out-of-Home” and more recently, “Digital-out-of-Home” advertising are still considered two of the most impactful methods for influencing buyers. In fact, according to market researchers Magna, in 2018 the out-of-home industry was worth $31 billion annually and rising.
As impressive as this market may be, for most businesses and advertisers it’s still seen as a ‘no-go’ area due to a few fundamental and historic challenges. So, what are they?
The advertisers’ dilemma
Today, advertisers face significant challenges of accessibility and accountability when choosing both digital and traditional outdoor advertising. These can be summarised by the below schematic as Cost, Fraud, Accuracy and Occupancy.
From A to B via C, D and E
Right out of the gate, these start when attempting to book outdoor advertising. The current routes to outdoor advertising typically fall into three categories:
Using traditional media/network agencies
Via programmatic agencies
Direct via publisher
The majority of the advertising industry operates mostly by relationships, telephone and email. Advertisers or their agencies still call to find, plan and negotiate available spaces and rates. And once booked, tracking their creative assets at various sizes, paying for the ads and receiving invoices is equally labour intensive.
This cumbersome booking, delivery and payment process results in three outcomes:
Advertising costs are high
Minimum term contracts are required
Slow operational process
Combined, these factors will put off or price out many advertisers, leading to the industry missing two very important opportunities; a huge market for growth and acquisition of new clientele.
With digital advertising, speed is very much of the essence. Businesses need to respond ever faster in the market and the digital world is key to enabling this. However, in the worlds of OOH and DOOH, very little has changed through the decades. Advertising is still required to be booked weeks or even months in advance, using delay-heavy processes of phone calls and email.
This is unattractive to advertisers needing to respond quickly to changing markets and behaviours where advert rotation needs to be rapid or immediate. Due to this inherent slow process, marketers often prefer to use other mediums such as online and mobile to drive their message out more efficiently.
A more direct alternative is needed where advertisers and marketers can deploy advertisements instantly over digital screens from an easily accessible platform. Such a capability will have a game-changing impact on the whole market.
Lack of transparency
Out of home advertising is typically based on footfall figures, which are sampled periodically, and are by their nature difficult to authenticate. They rely on a ‘person counting’ system which can be inaccurate and full of out-of-date information. Specifically, these systems do not show who has actually seen the ad, as a proportion of passers by, or their gender or age etc., making much of the data meaningless.
The number of times a screen has displayed adverts is called a ‘play-out report’. These reports are typically provided in either Excel or PDF format and not available in real-time. Not only is the information provided limited in its insight, it is also a time-delayed report of the data captured. Digital advertisers on the other hand are used to receiving real-time data, on dashboards with analytic capabilities. They are able to see how their advertising campaigns are performing in real-time and react accordingly.
Digital out-of-home (DOOH) must inevitably move this way to enable smarter decision making and better optimisation for customers. Such a shift would further increase the DOOH spend of advertisers and marketers.
Digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising signage occupancy is variable. This means there may not be enough advertisers to fill the space on the screens all of the time. There are many reasons why this happens, but the most common are due to expensive and lengthy contracts.
However, the story is different with digital advertising. Google Adwords disrupted that space by taking away contractual lengths and minimum spend and instead distributing the available space between all the contending advertisers.
The outdoor market can no longer ignore this new dynamic format of advertising but has, until recently, been held back by technological challenges to enable it. No longer.
An alternative approach
What is now clear is that there is both scope and appetite for end-to-end solutions that make digital billboard advertising simple and accessible to all. Solutions where any advertiser can simply download an app (or access a web portal), create an advert quickly – uploading any necessary media, choose the display locations, set a budget and press a publish button. Wouldn’t that be easier, faster, better?
The good news is that such disruption is not only coming, it’s here. Solutions addressing these and other advertising issues are available today. You just have to know where to find them. However, in time, these new solutions will become the norm and hopefully making it easier and more cost-effective for all advertisers to access digital out of home platforms.